Last Tuesday, expert Dr. Jane Thierfeld Brown (left) visited Union University to educate student, faculty, and staff on the autism spectrum. She gave information and advice vital to both faculty and students alike, ranging from the characteristics of those with autism to what it is like to be autistic.
For example, Brown described that those with autism are extremely sensitive to noise, movement, and light because they have increased sensory perception. They may be easily distracted, only be able to focus on one thing at a time, and are highly knowledgeable on certain topics, especially topics that interest them.
While students may have above average intelligence, they have different ways of learning and suffer when it comes to social situations and knowledge, or what Brown dubs “social dyslexia.” This ‘dyslexia,’ combined with the possible over stimulation of social situations, often leads them to withdraw and appear antisocial.
Director of Student Support Services Shelly Shinebarger says that though the special needs students she works are very bright, they need certain accommodations to “even the playing field.”
When it comes to classes and studies, she compares the help that those with autism need to the service eyeglasses provide. While wearing glasses doesn’t give the wearer an advantage to see more than what’s written on a piece of paper, it allows the wearer to see the writings as others would normally see it.
Taking tests in quiet location or with more time allows the students to fully process the information and ensure that they are doing what is required in the exam.
When students come to college, they lose the parental buffer they had their entire life that would explain and understand their condition and needs to others. When asked how Union students can help those who have Asperger’s Syndrome, Brown responded by saying, “Be open.”