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Autism Advice for School Success? Try Sunglasses

April 23, 2012

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Several new studies have been released to mark April's Autism Awareness Month, focusing on prenatal exposures, diet, and prevalence of the disorder. The CDC reports one of every 88 Florida children has some form of autism, and success in school can be difficult, although an expert who's considered to be the best-known person with the disorder says it's possible.

Temple Grandin, Ph.d., says most students with autism, and many with ADHD, are negatively affected by 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. "

She also recommends printing worksheets on pastel paper instead of white.

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."

Grandin says pattern thinkers have an "engineering mind," but often have difficulty with reading. The third type is someone whose mind processes words the best.

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."

Florida now has a website dedicated to information on autism and resources. It was opened this month and is sponsored in part by the Florida State University Autism Institute.

Temple Grandin offers more tips on her website, TempleGrandin.com. Florida's new website is www.autismflorida.com.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - FL