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Autism Advice for School Success? Try Sunglasses

April 23, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Autism affects one of every 88 children in Tennessee, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). During April, Autism Awareness Month, several new studies have been released that focus on prenatal exposures, diet and prevalence of the disorder. For children with the condition in Tennessee and elsewhere, achieving success in school can be difficult - although an expert who earned her Ph.D. and is considered the most well-known person with the disorder says it is possible.

Temple Grandin 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. 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. The third type is the word-thinking kind of mind."

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

"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. I'm getting a lot of fantastic feedback about the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts."

In the state of Tennessee alone, more than 30,000 people live with autism. Grandin says that many of the best scientific minds today do not believe there is a single, underlying cause of autism, but that it is likely the result of multiple factors that play out differently in different individuals.

Temple Grandin offers more tips on her website, www.TempleGrandin.com. A calendar full of events where people can learn about autism and make connections is available on the Autism Society of Tennessee website, www.tnautism.org.



Bo Bradshaw, Public News Service - TN