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Introduction to 55 Essential Skills for Students on the Autism Spectrum
55 Essential Skills for Students on the Autism Spectrum is the culmination of 10 years of research and development at the Neuro-Linguistic Learning Center in Northern California.
Neuro-Linguistic Learning Center was founded in 2006 by Gerald Hughes with the single mission, to help students, teens, and adults in overcoming the effects of Dyslexia, ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
Out of this mission a number of programs were developed including the 55 Essential Skills for Students on the Autism Spectrum.
These skills and strategies are founded upon the natural abilities and sensory profiles of students who are or may be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
This guide is NOT designed for “normal” or neurotypical students.
It is specifically designed to address the unique Sensory Perception and Processing issues common to ADHD/ASD students.
THE 55 Essential Skills for Students on the Autism Spectrum are easily self-administered by teens and adults.
Younger students are easily coached through the program by a parent or teacher.
In working with ADHD/ASD students and adults for the past 15 years, it became clear that, as a group, ADHD/ASD students tend to perceive and process sensory information very differently than neurotypical students.
As a group, ADHD/ASD students tend to have different strengths and weakness than neurotypical students.
It follows that many ADHD/ASD students require a different approach to learning.
Unfortunately, virtually all textbooks and curriculum are designed for neurotypical students.
Further complicating the issue is that in a typical classroom with a heterogenous population, it is highly unlikely that ADHD/ASD students will receive instruction appropriate to their specific sensory needs.
Neither are they likely to be taught skills and strategies appropriate to their sensory profiles and natural abilities.
Experience has shown us that the lack of these essential skills is the source of many ASD struggles.
Conversely, when these essential skills are provided, most struggles are resolved and replaced with success.
55 Essential Skills for Students on the Autism Spectrum is designed to address the struggles commonly experienced by many ADHD/ASD students.
It is important to note that 55 Essential Skills for Students on the Autism Spectrum is NOT a medical text. There is NOTHING in this text that is intended to diagnose or fix or cure any medical issue.
There is nothing within this text that would take the place of competent medical advice. If you suspect a medical, psychological, or neurological issue, you should see a licensed professional.
55 Essential Skills for Students on the Autism Spectrum has one purpose and one purpose only—to provide struggling students with the basic skills to make learning easier, faster, and more fun.
Understand that most of these strategies are NOT about spoon-feeding students, modifying the curriculum or providing any special accommodations.
Unlike tutoring programs that rely on the skills of the teacher or tutor (or parent), these skills and strategies are designed to put the power of learning in the hands of students.
Relax and allow the exercises to create a new relationship to education and learning.
Let go, have fun, and trust the process.
As always, we at the NLC are always happy to answer any questions and offer our assistance when requested.
ADHD and AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS
Before we go into specific strategies, I think it’s important that we briefly review the Autism Spectrum as the context and foundation for these 55 essential skills.
In our model, we describe the ADHD/Autism Spectrum as including eight distinct sensory profiles, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
These sensory profiles are NOT a diagnosis although diagnostic labels have been included for reference.
Rather these profiles (types) occur as observed patterns for perceiving and processing sensory information within the ADHD/Autism Spectrum.
It is important to know that each of the four dominant traits or functions occurs as a spectrum from mild to extreme.
This level of dominance will have a profound effect on a student’s strengths and weaknesses—on their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
I cannot stress enough that THESE TRAITS ARE NEITHER BINARY NOR EXCLUSIVE!
At any given time, often depending upon a student’s stress level, they may exhibit thoughts, feelings, and behaviors consistent with any of the neurological traits.
What we are primarily interested in is the patterns in which these thoughts, feelings, and behaviors occur.
As an example: one Autistic student may be Sensory-Avoider (Over-Stimulated) to the point that they go into sensory overload when the lights are too bright or if one or two students near them get excited.
Another Autistic student may be mildly Sensory-Avoider such that they can attend a concert or lecture attended by dozens of students.
The fact that these functions are not binary allows for an almost infinite variation of abilities and weaknesses within and beyond the Autism Spectrum.
The intention of looking at sensory profiles is NOT to limit or define us, but to increase our self-awareness of our strengths and weaknesses.
In examining our individual strengths and weaknesses, we are better equipped to maximize our natural abilities and to become more fully self-expressed human beings.
Every student, every Sensory Profile, has their own unique set of strengths and weaknesses.
Given the right situation or application, every personality trait can become a strength. And in the wrong situation, even our strengths can become a weakness.
There are several publications from the Neuro-linguistic Learning Center which look more deeply into these ADHD/ASD sensory profiles and personality in general.
“Gifted Not Broken”, “Cracking the Dyslexia Code” and “Finding Your FACE: a Sensory-Based Guide to Personality and Neurodiversity” specifically address the issues of sensory profiles and neurodiversity.
In this text, we will focus on key strategies to reduce stress and increase focus and attention as a means for improving academic performance.
Keep in mind is that our education system has evolved to accommodate a very distinct subset of the population.
This subset is comprised of a broad but very specific type of thinking and intelligence.
For example, 90% of all information in the classroom is presented verbally or written. It is typically organized by characteristics and features rather than patterns and applications.
And almost all new concepts are taught by example (how) rather than by concept (why).
Given the inherent bias in the education system, it is no surprise that only about 5% of all students truly excel in public school and only 35% of all students are fully successful (passing grades) in all subjects.
This leaves approximately 65% of all students struggling or performing poorly in one or more subjects and as many as 15% of all students struggling if all or most of their classes.
Given that the overall intelligence of 93% of school age students varies by less than 10% when developmental differences and other factors are taken into account, it is clear that the educational paradigm favors students with specific sensory profile and is biased against many otherwise intelligent students.
This text is a recipe for restoring balance and fairness in the classroom by giving neurodiverse students the tools they need to succeed using their natural abilities.