Autism Spectrum Disorder
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong developmental disability that affects a student’s academic, behavioral, and social functioning in the educational setting. Although Autism disorder is typically manifested before 36 months of age, a child who first manifests the characteristics after age 3 may also meet criteria. Autism disorder is characterized by qualitative impairments in reciprocal social interaction, qualitative impairments in communication, and restricted range of interests/repetitive behavior.
The Detroit Public Schools’ School Social Workers have a history of providing quality services, which include comprehensive evaluations and effective interventions for students affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The ASD School Social Workers work with school staff and parents, provides professional development, and provides other services related to Autism.
School Social Workers are the lead professionals on the evaluation team for each student suspected of having an ASD. The initial assessment includes a record review, comprehensive assessment, observations, and a review of response to (pre-referral) interventions (RTI). Evaluations include both formal and informal assessment methods.
The formal evaluation procedures include the administration of the CARS – Childhood Autism Rating Scale (I & II, along with other diagnostic tools) and structured interviews of the child, the teachers, school personnel, and the caretakers.
Informal evaluation procedures include observations of the student, assessment of play and leisure interests, adaptive behavior, social interactions, and communication patterns.
DPS School Social Workers use best practice methods when evaluations are performed. This means that they assess for all possible disorders under the ASD instead of just Autism. With the expansion of the definition of Autistic Impaired (AI) to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), there is more than ever before the need to do a “differential diagnosis” between ASD and other disabilities/disorders that might explain some of the behavioral symptoms of concern. This approach should lead to a more accurate diagnosis and therefore more effective interventions.
Interventions for Students with ASD
Once a child becomes eligible under ASD, the School Social Worker provides direct and indirect services to address the individuals’ social and learning difficulties.
Types of Social Work interventions may include:
- Social Skills Training
- Referrals to outside resources (advocacy, etc.)
- Consultations with teachers
- Functional Behavior Assessment/Behavior Intervention Planning
- Individual, Group, and Classroom Interventions
- And many more, as needed
School Social Workers are the links connecting all of the support persons (i.e. teachers, family, doctors, community, etc.) addressing the needs of each ASD individual.