INSIGHT from Persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Sally Chappel, M.Ed., Coordinator, Region 5 T/TAC @ JMU

The following are lessons that I have learned as I have supported persons on the spectrum. As you start your school year, try to look at the world through the eyes of someone on the spectrum. You may be surprised!

“If I can’t see it I don’t understand.”

When in doubt, write it out.

Remember to be literal when conversing with a person with autism spectrum disorders.

Rest is needed after a day in school. This may manifest itself in a number of different ways – video gaming, watching TV, and/or being alone in a room.

A social life is desired. “I just want to be able to go out.”

As students understand their disability they may find that they feel like they have a disease. They may feel that their personality is changing because of the disability.

Typically having a purpose and reason to be involved will enhance their desire to do so. There needs to be something in it for them.

Individuals may feel left out or different. They may ask if others feel this way.

Directions are often best understood if you give landmarks to the person instead of road signs and numbers. The person will remember the buildings and landmarks since they are unique.

The person may have certain rituals, routines, favorite things, or just ways of doing something that may appear unusual or unnecessary to us.

The T/TACs have specialists trained in working with students with autism spectrum disorders, as well as a wealth of resources in the lending libraries. Additional resources are also available at T/TAC Online (