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Autism Basics

By: Bev Long
Diagnostic Center, Central California

Note: This is an accessible alternative version to the Autism Basics Powerpoint (PPT)


The number of cases of autism in people ages 6-22 have grown cumulatively from 22% in 1993 to 805% in 2003 in the United States and outlying areas.  During that same period, the instances of all disabilities have grown from 3% to 31%. (slide 11)

Controversy over incidence: Labeling or Epidemic?
Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD)
Real Kids…The range

Two Categories of Causes of Autism

Internal Causes
External Causes
  • The final common pathway to autism, one of several possible models, depicts the origins of autism in genetic factors, viral infections, pregnancy/birth complications, or other causes.  These causes each result in brain damage, which leads to either autism (social communication and obsessional difficulties), mental handicap (slower development in almost all areas) or both.
  • Misconceptions
    We are talking about students who are:
    Early Signs: Signs that may be seen in infancy as early as 8 months
    Red Flag Biggies


    1940’s – 1960’s

    Theory of Mind: Thinking  About Thinking

    Theory of Mind

    Theory of Mind..say it another way…
    The Sally / Anne Test
    What Did We Learn?
    Autism and Theory of Mind (ToM)

    Implications of Theory of Mind Impairments

    Problems Understanding the Perspectives of Others.
    Problems Understanding How Others Think and Feel
    Problems with Joint Attention and Other Social Conventions
    Difficulty Understanding Emotions
    Difficulty Explaining Own Behaviors
    Difficulty Predicting Others’ Behavior or Emotional States
    Difficulty Reading the Intentions of Others
    Other Problems
    Sensory Difficulties
    What Might I See These Students Do?
    What Might I See These Students Do?
    Why? Because…..
    How can we work together as a team?
    Suggested Info Sheet for a Higher Functioning Student

    Communicating with Children to Enhance Language Development:

    Strategies that all adults can use when communicating with autistic children to facilitate language learning.

    Guidelines for Communicating
    Sometimes students “appear” to understand language that they don’t---how?
    Sometimes students “appear” to understand language
    Increasing Motivation to Communicate
    Increasing Motivation to Communicate
    What about behavior problems?
    Be Gentle During a Crisis
    Adult behaviors that can Escalate a Crisis

    What Should I Know if I Have a Student with Asperger Syndrome in my Classroom?

    Intricate Minds- a video designed to help us understand what it would be like to have Asperger Syndrome

    Characteristics that Impact Performance in the Classroom
    Characteristics that Impact Performance in the Classroom
    Characteristics that Impact Performance in the Classroom
    “An Anthropologist from Mars”
    The “NT” world baffles individuals with AS

      “ Why don’t we say what we mean? . . .   Why do we so often make trivial remarks that mean nothing at all? Why do we get bored and impatient when someone with [AS] tells us hundreds of fascinating facts about [arcane topics]. . . Why do we care about social hierarchies--why not treat everyone in the same way? . . .why are we so illogical compared to people with [AS]”  Lorna Wing, in Attwood, 1998 p.9.

    Accommodating the environment for AS
    Use of class rules-clear expectations
    Change – Luke Jackson
    General Principles of Social Skill Development for Students with AS
    General Principles of Social Skill Development for Students with AS
    General Principles


    If the human brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn't.

    Head size- 2003
    Frontal lobes
    Corpus callosum