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Cheat Sheet

Understanding Autism For Dummies

From Understanding Autism For Dummies by Stephen Shore, Linda G. Rastelli, Temple Grandin (Foreword by)

Getting familiar with acronyms associated with autism and visiting autism-related Web sites can help familiarize you with this developmental disorder. Tips for talking with a person with autism come in handy, as does planning for emergency situations. If you have an autistic child, you want to know how to seek out the best educational resources and how to investigate the claims of those who offer interventions.

Autism Intervention Questions to Ask

Many “entrepreneurs” are only too happy to accept your money for their “miracle cures” or interventions for your loved one with autism. Keep your eyes open, and ask these questions about all those sellers and their interventions:

  • What evidence supports the intervention’s effectiveness? Is the evidence independent research or just case studies? What’s the success rate of the intervention? Are there side effects or interactions?

  • Who else is offering the intervention, and how is yours better?

  • What other interventions are available? Can they be combined?

  • What’s the total cost? Will my health insurance or a government program cover the cost, or is it tax deductible?

  • Can I speak with other people who have tried this already?

  • How will the treatment help, specifically? How can I measure progress? What timeframe does the treatment call for?

Acronyms Associated with Autism

As with every other condition, autism has its own set of acronyms that it pays to become familiar with. The following table helps you translate some of the acronyms you’ll see and hear over and over during your life as a caregiver of or a person with autism.

Acronym What It Stands For
ABA Applied Behavioral Analysis
AS Asperger Syndrome
ASD Autism Spectrum Disorder
BIP Behavior Intervention Plan
BMP Behavior Management Plan
ESY Extended School Year
FAPE Free and Appropriate Public Education
FERPA Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
IDEA Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
IEP Individualized Education Program
IFSP Individualized Family Service Plan
IPP Individual Program Plan
ISP Individual Service Plan
LRE Least Restrictive Environment
NT Neurotypical

Helpful Autism Web Sites

If you have autism or are caring for someone with autism, you can find resources, information, and legal support through the Internet. The links in the following list can help open new vistas of aid and support:

How to Communicate with a Person with Autism

Communication is one of the biggest challenges for people with autism. To engage in conversation with someone with autism, you need to shift your expectations and perhaps your style of communication a bit. The tips in the following list can help you understand and be understood by a person with autism:

  • Speak slowly and clearly, and don’t expect an immediate response.

  • Be gentle, persistent, and patient. Don’t rush the person.

  • Provide direct instruction in social rules. Teach an emotional vocabulary.

  • Keep your communications simple. Don’t overwhelm.

  • Don’t force eye contact or touch.

  • Encourage special interests, but teach give-and-take in conversation.

  • Demonstrate behaviors, allowing time for observation and reflection.

  • Pay attention to non-verbal signals.

Getting the Most from Your Autistic Child's Educational Experience

Your child with autism can thrive in school. You may need to be more involved in the educational process of your autistic child than with an unaffected child, but the rewards of that extra investment can really pay off for you and your child.

The following tips can guide you and your child’s teachers to a good educational experience:

  • Insist on specific and measurable goals for your child’s IEP (Individualized Education Program). Involve your child in the process.

  • Develop strong relationships with educational professionals. Keep it friendly, not adversarial.

  • Stay informed about educational laws, your district’s policies, and your child’s progress. Know your options.

  • Visit your child’s classroom to confirm that it’s an effective learning environment. It should have distinct areas for different subjects, comfortable lighting, good ventilation, appropriate noise level, and right-sized furniture, and the teacher should be approachable and fair.

  • Support your child at home by reinforcing what educators are teaching at school. Develop your child’s strengths; don’t just remediate.

  • If possible, get at least 25 hours a week of early intervention before age 3.

How to Prepare for Emergencies with an Autistic Loved One

For many people with autism any disruption of their routine is overwhelming, and a real emergency situation is enough to throw anyone off-balance. So, if you have a loved one with autism, it pays to prepare as best you can before an emergency arises. Use the following tips to prepare your autistic loved one and your whole family:

  • Consider attaching an identification sticker to the door or window of an autistic person’s home to prepare a person coming in to help.

  • Create or purchase a medical alert tag, bracelet, or other notification that identifies a person with autism.

  • Network with relatives, friends, and others to establish a web of contacts for assistance if needed.

  • Register the person on the autism spectrum with the community 911 service as a person with a disability.

  • Have an evacuation plan, and review and practice it frequently with the person on the autism spectrum.

  • Project a sense of calm. People with autism often sense and reflect your emotion.

  • View more on disaster preparedness at the following locations:

Sample Emergency ID Card for a Person with Autism

If you have autism or you care for a person with autism, making an emergency ID card is a good idea. If you make a card for someone else, educate the person with autism to keep it on hand to share with people in confusing situations, such as when they’re approached by a uniformed person or when they have difficulty interacting with others they don’t know.

The front side of wallet-size card should give the name of the person with autism and two or three contact name and numbers. The next paragraph would be a good one to copy:

My name is ___________________ and I have autism, which causes me to behave in unexpected ways. Please contact one of the people listed here: (List names and phone numbers for two or three people.)

On the back of the card, you can include information on autism and offer tips with dealing with the person with autism, such as that in the following table:

Autism Information
I may: Please help by:
Not understand what you say Not shouting
Appear deaf Speaking slowly and softly
Suddenly dart away Using concrete terms
Have difficulty speaking Giving me time to respond
Flap my hands or rock Explaining before doing
Not understand legal issues Employing visual aids for communication when possible
Be overly sensitive to shiny objects, sounds, touch, or smells Making no sudden movements and

Warning me first if you must touch me

Feel free to print out this page and use it to design your own emergency card.

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