I was wondering around the internet tonight looking up stuff on autism and PDD and I found a page with this info on it. I thought it was a great summary of what life is like with a high-functioning kid on the spectrum!
Although it is similar to Autism, a diagnosis of PDD or Asperger's means that a child functions on a higher level, both cognitively and socially, than what you might expect (particularly if you've seen the movie, Rain Man). Common challenges children with mild Autism/PDD/Asperger's may face in the classroom:
Associative Memory - While many people think more logically or linearly; those with Autism, Asperger's, and PDD tend to be visual thinkers. Instead of thinking in language, they tend to "think in pictures." We have found great value in giving our child pictures to refer to when he's having difficulty with a concept, particularly those that are more abstract.
Auditory Processing - Children with Autism, Asperger's, and PDD typically have problems processing things they hear, particularly if it's a large quantity of information. Sometimes, the lack of speech comprehension is interpreted by others as an unwillingness to obey. And sometimes, it could be be just that! However, many times you may find that the child will comply with instructions if they are shortened, written down, or given with visual cues and pictures.
Fixations - Many children with Autism, Asperger's, and PDD get fixated on one subject, such as cars, trains, calendars, or maps. They may refuse to read books unless they're about their subject of interest. The best way to deal with this is to use their interest as motivation for school work and other things they need to do. Teachers often have success by alternating a book on their favorite subject with another book they want the child to read. The child gets to read the one they want as a reward for reading the one they'd rather not.
Food Issues - It is sometimes difficult to get autistic children to eat, and sensory issues play a big role in this. What we have found, is that changing the shape, color, texture, or size of the food or the plate it is served on can be quite helpful.
Extremely Literal - This can often catch you off guard. One child thought that the alarm for the fire drill at school was an actual drill. He thought the drilling was what caused the noise for the alarm.
Handwriting - Delays in fine motor skills and problems with motor control in their hands can make writing more difficult. Children with fine motor delays usually receive occupational therapy to help address this; but in the meantime, the child may need to write with a marker instead of a pencil to make up for the lack of force exerted by their hands. On another note, some children may write only with upper case letters. This is probably the result of their resistance to change, but it could also be that the fine motor delays make it difficult to form the lower-case letters.
Meltdowns - Sometimes, despite your best efforts, the child may have a "meltdown" because he/she just cannot handle something. The best thing to do is give him/her a safe place to calm down and regroup. This place should be chosen ahead of time, and it should be as quiet and as soothing/non-stimulating as possible.
Resistance to Change - Maybe a better term would be, "difficulty dealing with change or anything unexpected." Something simple like calling to speak to grandma on the phone can be a challenge if grandpa answers instead. Sameness and predictability are essential in the early days and weeks in a new classroom, particularly for younger children. Later, it is always best to warn about any changes ahead of time. They may feel the need to ask a lot of questions to help themselves understand the change and how it will affect them.
Sensory Processing - Sights and sounds that are tolerated by "typical" children may cause pain, confusion, and/or fear in children with Autism, Asperger's and PDD. The best way to describe this is to imagine waking up in the middle of the night, thinking you heard a suspicious noise. All of your senses are on heightened alert; and the next sight, sound, or touch could send you through the roof. This is how many children with Autism and PDD feel when they enter a room for the first time, encounter a new situation, or experience stress.
Theory of Mind - Children with Autism, Asperger's, and PDD have difficulty comprehending that others don't know something. It is quite common, especially for those with savant abilities (special gifting), to become upset when asking a question of a person to which the person does not know the answer. Theory of mind refers to the notion that many autistic children do not understand that other people have their own plans, thoughts, and points of view. They may also have difficulty understanding the beliefs, attitudes, and emotions of others.