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Teaching And Learning

As theories about the cause of autism have changed so have approaches to teaching autistic individuals. Individuals with autism were once considered unteachable and were often institutionalized. Experts currently recommend early education for autistic individuals using approaches geared specifically for them. Those who cannot speak may learn sign language. Often some form of behavioral modification is suggested including offering positive reinforcement for good behavior.

Given the need for organization and repetitive behavior among autistic people, many experts suggest a structured environment with a clearly defined schedule. Some experts advocate special schools for autistic children while others recommend including them in a general school program with appropriate help.

Controversy exists concerning the best way to teach and communicate with autistic children who do not speak. In the 1980s some parents and educators claimed great success using so-called facilitated communication. This technique involves the use of a keyboard or letter board and a facilitator to help the autistic individual use the device. Some have said the device allows autistic individuals to break through the barriers of communication. Others have criticized facilitated communication as a contrived and false method of communication. The technique remains controversial.

With no cure and no prenatal test for autism, there is no prospect of eliminating this condition in the near future. Continued educational research concerning the best way to teach autistic children and continued scientific research concerning possible treatments for autism are the greatest hope for dealing with the effects of this profound developmental problem.



Baron-Cohen, Simon, and Patrick Bolton. Autism: The Facts. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Bauman, Margaret L., and Thomas L. Kemper. The Neurobiology of Autism. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.

Brill, Marlene Targ. Keys to Parenting the Child With Autism. Hauppauge, NY: Barron's, 1994.

Cohen, Donald J., and Anne M. Donnellan. Handbook of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders. Silver Spring, MD: V. H. Winston and Sons, 1987.

Hart, Charles A. A Parent's Guide to Autism. New York: Pocket Books, 2001.

Isselbacher, Kurt J., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 13th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994.


Eberlin, Michael, et al. "Facilitated Communication: A Failure to Replicate the Phenomenon." Journal of Autism and Communication Disorders 23 (1993): 507-528.
"Interventions To Facilitate Social Interaction For Young Children." Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 32, no. 5-5 (2002): 351-372.

Patricia Braus


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Limbic system

—A group of structures in the brain including the hippocampus and dentate gyrus. These structures are associated with smell, emotion, behavior, and other brain activity.


—A broad term that usually refers to interpersonal verbal treatment of disease or disorder that addresses psychological and social factors.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: A-series and B-series to Ballistic Missiles - Categories Of Ballistic MissileAutism - A Singular World View, Abundance Of Theories, Teaching And Learning