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“Five Things My Teacher Needs to Know About Me:”

October 14, 2010

by Marilyn J. Monteiro

Self-Advocacy for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum

Today I spoke to a group of community college counselors about ways they can support young adults on the autism spectrum who are in the college setting.

Once an individual leaves high school there are two key differences for post-secondary education:

  • The burden is on the student to disclose and self-advocate;
  • The student must be able to abide by the academic and behavior standards with reasonable accommodations.

 We can help individuals on the autism spectrum become effective self advocates in school and in work settings by helping them identify and discuss key things others need to know to support success in those settings.

I encourage teachers and parents to begin using the simple strategy of developing a list of “Five Things My Teacher Needs to Know About Me” as early as kindergarten for verbal children.

The idea behind this short list is to help the individual identify key strengths and areas of challenge before he or she enters into a new relationship and new school or work setting. The words “autism” or “Asperger’s Syndrome” usually don’t appear on this list of five things because the label itself does not describe individual qualities that are key to the understanding of the child or young adult and his or her needs. Instead, the list highlights the individual’s areas of interest or abilities along with triggers for difficulties.

The list gives the individual a structured way to have an interaction with the teacher or employer that focuses on having the individual self-disclose and ask for assistance. The teacher or employer tend to respond to this succinct discussion in a positive and supportive way.

Here is a sample list from a 16 year old:

  1. I love to read and remember facts about many subjects, including science and history.
  2. My hobbies include video games and chess.
  3. I do best when I know about changes in advance and can see the change in writing.
  4. I prefer working alone than in groups
  5. Making mistakes frustrates me and I sometimes need to take a break to regroup when I  become overwhelmed

  Notice that the list starts with positive attributes and ends with areas in which the individual may need some help.

If you are a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, or a professional who works with children on the spectrum, consider helping that individual develop a list of “Five Things My Teacher Needs To Know About Me.”

Share your list on the Autism Conversations Facebook Fan Page:

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Helping Teachers and Students Understand Autism Spectrum Differences

October 8, 2010

by Marilyn J. Monteiro

        General education teachers are increasingly faced with the need to understand the subtle differences that make up high-functioning autism spectrum differences in the students they teach. Neuro-typical peers also benefit from an increased understanding of and sensitivity to the differences seen in their classmates who have developmental differences on the autism spectrum.

         I recommend sharing the DVD series by Coulter Video ( with teachers as part of their staff development training. The two DVDs I use in training teachers cover the range from teachers in grades 3-6 to teachers of middle and high school students.

         The DVD “Intricate Minds II” is a 16 minute DVD featuring a well spoken and delightful young man with Asperger’s Syndrome as the guide. Several children on the spectrum talk about their worldview and some practical advice is shared. The DVD is suitable for training teachers and educational staff and can be used by teachers to show to their students as well. Because it is intended for teachers of students in the upper elementary grades, teachers need to sensitive in showing the film to their students to protect the privacy of students with autism spectrum disorders who may not yet be aware of their diagnosis. The film is a great way to address differences without specifically focusing on a particular student in a class and can be used as part of a series of sensitivity activities that focus of teaching respect for individual differences.

         The DVD “Intricate Minds” is a 14 minute DVD that targets middle and high school students and has the same young man as the narrator. Teachers who have viewed this have responded positively and expressed benefit from seeing a range of adolescents talking about their experiences. Adolescents who have recently become aware of their diagnosis have also found this DVD to be helpful.

         To help young adults with Asperger’s Syndrome prepare for the transition to post-secondary work and college, I recommend the Coulter Video DVD “Asperger Syndrome: Transition to College and Work.” It is broken into two sections (one on work issues and the second dedicated to college concerns) and covers many practical steps to guide students as they prepare for these important life transitions.

         Next week I will be speaking at a local conference sponsored by two community colleges. In my next post I’ll be sharing some of the content from that talk, entitled “Autism Conversations: Strategies for Working with Post-Secondary Adolescents and Adults.”

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Quantifiable and Practical Ways to Assess for High-Functioning Forms of Autism: Part Two of Two

September 30, 2010

by Marilyn J. Monteiro

Quantifiable and Practical Ways to Assess for High-Functioning Forms of Autism: Part Two of Two

 Recently I was asked to comment on the following question:

 “Is there a common framework for assessing students with milder forms of autism that is quantifiable as well as practical?”

 When a systematic approach is used to gather a detailed behavioral profile, it becomes possible to arrive at a diagnosis that is both quantifiable and practical.

 To obtain a qualitative sample of behavior that is systematic and observable a diagnostic student interview should be completed.

 The MIGDAS* interview process provides guidelines in how to structure a “neuro-atypical” conversation with a student and how to gain detailed background information from parents and teachers. The MIGDAS process helps evaluators coax out nuanced patterns of neuro-atypical development that can be clearly documented and match the experience of parents and teachers.

 To further support the individual behavioral profile gathered through the MIGDAS process, I use the CARS2-HF rating scale**. The CARS2-HF provides quantitatively specific and reliable information to support the qualitative sample of behavior obtained through the MIGDAS interview process. It is completed by the autism evaluation team and the ratings take into account direct interaction with the individual as well as parent and teacher input.

 I also use the SRS*** parent and teacher forms to target social factors and to compare how the individual is viewed socially by parents and teachers.

 The BRIEF**** inventory provides useful information regarding key executive functioning skills.

 Finally, the BASC-2***** provides additional quantifiable information. Many times the Atypicality scale is elevated for individuals with mild, high-functioning forms of autism.

 *MIGDAS: Monteiro Interview Guidelines for Diagnosing Asperger’s Syndrome: A Team-Based Approach (

**CARS2-HF: Childhood Autism Rating Scale, Second Edition-High-Functioning Version (

***SRS: Social Responsiveness Scale (

****BRIEF: Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (

*****BASC-2: Behavior Assessment System for Children, Second Edition (

 What autism behavior checklists do you like to use? Visit me on facebook at “Autism Conversations” and join the conversation!

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Quantifiable and Practical Ways to Assess for High-Functioning Forms of Autism: Part One of Two

September 23, 2010

by Marilyn J. Monteiro

Recently I was asked to comment on the following question:

“Is there a common framework for assessing students with milder forms of autism that is quantifiable as well as practical?”

Increasingly, psychologists and other evaluators are asked to assess children for milder, high-functioning forms of autism. The children in question are typically in general education classes and do not have cognitive delays. They may have been identified as having a form of Attention Deficit Disorder, or an emotional disorder such as anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive behavior patterns.

Because these individuals are on the milder end of the spectrum they do not show evidence of their differences in all settings. Many times the differences are subtle in their presentation and do not stand out during formal testing situations, including during the administration of Module 3 of the ADOS.

To reliably assess for high functioning forms of autism—Asperger’s Syndrome, high-functioning Autistic Disorder, and verbal children with Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified—it is critical to include both quantitative and qualitative measures.

 A common framework question you are asking when you complete an evaluation for suspected high-functioning autism spectrum disorders is as follows:

 What is the most compelling way to understand and describe the individual’s pattern of differences in development?

The three areas of development in question are:

 Language and Communication

Social Relationships and Emotional Responses

Sensory Use and Interests

Here is a quick reference chart to help distinguish between individuals with various high-functioning forms of autism: Asperger’s Syndrome, Autistic Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).


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