Disability Resources

Autism Spectrum/Asperger's Syndrome

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability; signs typically appear during early childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate, and interact with others. ASD is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum condition” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause of autism, but increased awareness and early diagnosis/intervention and access to appropriate services/supports lead to significantly improved outcomes. Some of the behaviors associated with autism include delayed learning of language; difficulty making eye contact or holding a conversation; difficulty with executive functioning, which relates to reasoning and planning; narrow, intense interests; poor motor skills’ and sensory sensitivities. Again, a person on the spectrum might follow many of these behaviors or just a few, or many others besides. The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder is applied based on analysis of all behaviors and their severity.


Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. It is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.   

Five Video Simulations to Help You Experience Sensory Overload   Autism Speaks head of medical research, Dr. Paul Wang, was interviewed by Mashable about sensory issues experienced by many individuals with autism. "It is hard to appreciate what it is like to be in the shoes of someone with ASD," said Dr. Wang. "To the extent that these simulations can illustrate how noxious sensory stimulation can be for individuals with ASD, they may help the general population to better understand the difficulty of living with ASD."

The Autism Society, the nation’s leading grassroots autism organization, exists to improve the lives of all affected by autism. We do this by increasing public awareness about the day-to-day issues faced by people on the spectrum, advocating for appropriate services for individuals across the lifespan, and providing the latest information regarding treatment, education, research and advocacy.

Seeds for Autism : At SEEDs we work with all levels of the autism spectrum.  We believe everyone deserves the chance to experiment, try new things, and grow.  Our program is designed to allow our participants to explore possibilities and discover new skills in a structured environment. ​​ 

Temple Grandin: The World Needs All Kinds of Minds
Temple Grandin, diagnosed with autism as a child, talks about how her mind works — sharing her ability to "think in pictures," which helps her solve problems that neurotypical brains might miss. She makes the case that the world needs people on the autism spectrum: visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers, and all kinds of smart geeky kids.

Autism Spectrum Basics

In this short article, Jeff Deutsch, a speaker and life coach with Asperger's describes his experiences.

Perhaps, as an Aspie who helps Aspies adjust to the rest of the world (and vice versa), I can offer some perspective.

We tend to need a great deal more specific clarification than most people. With many common terms, most people understand the same connotation. Not so with Aspies.  We tend to come up with lots of different implicit meanings, “or” no implicit meaning at all. Not to mention that by the time we get to college, some of us have guessed wrong about these connotations so often that we have a policy of “I’ll just go by what’s written down.”

A related difficulty we have is different phrasings with basically the same meaning.  For one thing, it makes it tough for us to catch polite hints, “Would you mind doing X?” vs. “As your professor, I direct you to do X”—they’re both orders, just one has some candy-coating (which can obscure the essential message for us). More specifically here, it also means that tests which phrase the same question in slightly different ways to try to catch inconsistency may give false positives in Aspies’ cases, because we figure, “Hey entirely different words must be an entirely different question.”

 Jeff Deutsch
Speaker & Life Coach
A SPLINT - Aspies Linking with NTs

This article briefly describes seven common characteristics of individuals with Autism

1. Different sensory experiences. For example, heightened sensitivity to light, difficulty interpreting internal physical sensations, hearing loud sounds as soft and soft sounds as loud, or synesthesia.

2. Non-standard ways of learning and approaching problem solving. For example, learning “difficult” tasks (e.g. calculus) before “simple” tasks (e.g. addition), difficulty with “executive functions,” or being simultaneously gifted at tasks requiring fluid intelligence and intellectually disabled at tasks requiring verbal skills.

3. Deeply focused thinking and passionate interests in specific subjects. “Narrow but deep,” these “special interests” could be anything from mathematics to ballet, from doorknobs to physics, and from politics to bits of shiny paper.

4. Atypical, sometimes repetitive, movement. This includes “stereotyped” and “self-stimulatory” behavior such as rocking or flapping, and also the difficulties with motor skills and motor planning associated with apraxia or dyspraxia.

5. Need for consistency, routine, and order. For example, holidays may be experienced more with anxiety than pleasure, as they mean time off from school and the disruption of the usual order of things. People on the autistic spectrum may take great pleasure in organizing and arranging items.

6. Difficulties in understanding and expressing language as used in typical communication, both verbal and non-verbal. This may manifest similarly to semantic-pragmatic language disorder. It’s often because a young child does not seem to be developing language that a parent first seeks to have a child evaluated. As adults, people with an autism spectrum diagnosis often continue to struggle to use language to explain their emotions and internal state, and to articulate concepts (which is not to say they do not experience and understand these).

7. Difficulties in understanding and expressing typical social interaction. For example, preferring parallel interaction, having delayed responses to social stimulus, or behaving in an “inappropriate” manner to the norms of a given social context (for example, not saying “hi” immediately after another person says “hi”).

Autism is diagnosed based on observation by a diagnostician or team of diagnosticians (e.g. neuropsychologist, psychologist, psychiatrist, licensed clinical social worker, etc.).

Faculty and Tutor Guide for Working with Students with Asperger Syndrome

The following characteristics are typical in an individual with Asperger Syndrome. Due to the diversity and complexity of this disability, you may not see all of these characteristics in a given student. It is important to understand these characteristics, because they can result in behaviors that are easy to misinterpret.  Often behaviors that seem odd or unusual or even rude are in fact unintentional symptoms of AS.

General Characteristics

  • Frequent errors in interpreting others’ body language, intentions, or facial expressions
  • Difficulty understanding the motives and perceptions of others
  • Problems asking for help
  • Motor clumsiness, unusual body movements and/or repetitive behavior
  • Difficulty with the big picture, perseverating on the details (can’t see the forest for the trees)
  • Difficulties with transitions and changes in schedule
  • Wants things “just so”
  • Problems with organization (including initiating, planning, carrying out, and finishing tasks)
  • Deficits in abstract thinking (concepts, focuses on irrelevant details, difficulty generalizing)
  • Unusual sensitivity to touch, sounds, and visual details, may experience sensory overload

Functional Impact

Communication and Social Skills

  • Difficulty  in initiating and sustaining connected relationships
  • Poor or unusual eye contact
  • Problems understanding social rules (such as personal space)
  • Impairment of two-way interactions (May see to talk “at you” rather than “with you”
  • Conversations and questions may be tangential or repetitive
  • Restricted interests that may be unusual and sometimes become a rigid topic for social conversation
  • Unusual speech intonation, volume, rhythm, and/or rate
  • Literal understanding of language (difficulty interpreting words with double meaning, confused by metaphors and sarcasm)

Some Tips

  • Don’t use absolute words such as “always” or “never” unless that is exactly what you mean
  • Supplement oral with written instructions when revising assignments, dates, etc.
  • Use clear directives and establish rules if…
    • a student invades your space or imposes on your time
    • the student’s classroom comments or conversational volume become inappropriate


  • Information in papers may be redundant, returning to the same topic repeatedly
  • Student may be able to state facts and details, but be greatly challenged by papers requiring
    • taking another person’s point of view
    • synthesizing information to arrive at a larger concept
    • comparing and contrasting to arrive at the “big picture”
    • using analogies, similes, or metaphors

Some Tips

  • Use clear and detailed directives when referring to revisions that need to be made
  • Listing or numbering changes on the paper will provide guidelines for the student with working
  • If modeling writing rules, write them on a separate sheet for future reference
  • Keep directions simple and declarative
  • Ask students to repeat directions in their own words to check comprehension

Example: (Student arrives at your office at 1:40). “We have 20 minutes to work together. At 2:00, I’m going to ask you to take my suggestions home and start making changes to your paper. Come to my office tomorrow afternoon at 3:00 and show me what you’ve done.

Some Considerations

Student may have sophisticated and impressive vocabulary and rote memory but may have difficulty with high-level thinking and comprehension skills. They can give the impression that they understand, when it reality they may be repeating what they have heard or read. Many individuals with Asperger Syndrome are visual learners. Pictures and graphs may be helpful to them.

Instructional Tips

  • Clearly define course requirements, the dates of exams and when assignments are due. Provide advance notice of any changes.
  • Teach to generalize and consolidate information.
  • Make sure all expectations are direct and explicit.  Don’t require students to “read between the lines” to glean your intentions.  Don’t expect the student to automatically generalize instructions.  Provide direct feedback to the student when you observe areas of academic difficulty. Encourage use of resources designed to help students with study skills, particularly organizational skills.
  • Avoid idioms, double meaning, and sarcasm, unless you plan to explain your usage.
  • Make sure the setting for tests takes into consideration any sensitivity to sound, light, touch, etc.