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Adaptive Instruction for Teacher Education: Inclusive Approaches, Resources and Technology
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Communication Exceptionality:



Ministry Definition... A severe learning disorder that is characterized by:

  • Disturbances in:
    • rate of educational development;
    • ability to relate to the environment;
    • mobility;
    • perception, speech and language;
  • Lack of the representational symbolic behaviour that precedes language.

Other terms used

Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Rhea’s Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD) and includes in the subsection of Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.



This is very complex disorder and can vary in degree.  Very low functioning autistic children may be identified as either severely language impaired,  may have other concurrent delays in development and may be placed in self-contained classes for Multiple Exceptionalities.

Other, higher functioning autistic students often termed Asperger’s Syndrome are often placed into classes with Learning Disabled Students or integrated into regular classes with support.

Autism is a syndrome (a group of factors) where the various factors that affect functioning vary from child to child.

The regular teacher may find it easier to deal with these students in the regular class knowing he following:

  • It is a communication disorder and these students may take time to process what they hear, and then take time to formulate an answer.
  • They may be extremely sensitive to auditory and/or visual or any sensory stimuli and may have difficulty processing more than one sensory stimulus at a time, (poor sensory integration) or are overly sensitive to perceptual stimuli.  As an example, normal sound levels may be appear too loud, lights are too bright or even the texture of some clothing is painful. The student may be listening but doesn’t look at you as this is too distracting.
  • They may have excellent vocabularies yet have difficulty forming abstract concepts.
  • Although they may use visual imagery to learn, they may have difficulty processing visual ‘messages’ or have little spatial awareness essential for good social skills.  As a result, they may not have a self-image of how other see of them, (e.g. pick nose in class), may invade personal body space of others, and in teenage years boys this aspect of their condition may appear threatening to girls. 
  • Some autistic students tend to ‘go off on tangents’ and have difficulty maintain a focus on topic.  As an example, when asked to write about World War II, they may start on topic and then begin to discuss wars and the affect on world relationships and think visually of toy soldiers on horseback which leads to a discussion of dressage. They may need reminders to maintain topic.
  • Some autistic students tend to become fixated on one topic.


The Ministry of Education has created a guide for Effective Educational Practices for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders.