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Autism Advice for School Success? Try Sunglasses

April 23, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS - April is Autism Awareness Month, and several new studies have been released to mark the observance, focusing on prenatal exposures, diet, and prevalence of the disorder. The CDC reports that one of every 83 children in Indiana has some form of autism, and success in school can be difficult, although an expert who's considered the best-known American with the disorder says it's possible. Temple Grandin,Ph.d., says most students with autism, and many with ADHD, are negatively affected by the fast flicker of fluorescent lights in the classroom.

"Try on different-colored sunglasses - pale pink ones, pale light lavender ones - just experiment with that until you find some where the print no longer jiggles on the page. Also, try printing the homework on different pastel papers."

The autism spectrum has a wide range, but Grandin finds there are three basic ways to connect with children who have the disorder. The trick is to find out what type of thinker the child is.

"There's a visual thinker, like me - thinks in pictures, absolutely can't do algebra - but there's a lot of kids that are visual thinkers that can do geometry. Then there's the pattern-thinker; this is your engineering mind, your computer programmer mind, often have difficulty with reading. Then the third type is the word-thinking kind of mind."

Grandin's experience growing up was that she was labeled "weird," and says high school was the worst for bullying. However, she found respite from the teasing, and encourages families to find the same for their kids.

"And the only places where there was no bullying were the specialized interests, like model rocket club, riding horses, electronics lab. So, I strongly recommend getting the kids involved in activities they can do with other kids. And I'm getting a lot of fantastic feedback about the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts."

Temple Grandin offers more tips on her website, templegrandin.com.

The Autism Society of Indiana's website, www.inautism.org, has a calendar full of events to learn about autism and make connections.

Leigh DeNoon, Public News Service - IN