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An Epidemic by Any other Name

I’ve been a part of the AV community for a large percentage of my professional life. I’ve been a parent for a portion of that time. My greatest pleasure in life is watching my kids learn, grow and become. Until recently I could never have imagined that these two spheres in which I operate would ever converge-but they have.

How my kids learn, how many kids are not learning, and how I wish I could have learned all play into many developments in my working world. It is an exciting and hopeful time. It's not simply about classroom projectors and whiteboards. Classroom technology is important, yes--but it is more about reading the trends, making the connections and developing the solutions. I'll elaborate in future posts but for me it all began with personal research on the "Spectrum."

Problems surrounding school aged learning acquisition affect more than just parents and educators. Let’s look at one significant challenge for education in this country. Autism Spectrum Disorder is the medical field’s wide-net classification for a whole range of neurological syndromes. Symptoms range from minor challenges with social interaction and sensory integration all the way to full blown classic autism where there is complete withdrawal and physical disabilities. According to the CDC, 1.1 percent of children aged 3-17 has been diagnosed as being “on the spectrum.” Estimates when you and I were children were that two to five in 10,000 were autistic. Two years ago, the number was one in 150. When the numbers were revised again to include 1 in 58 boys and reported in the Journal of Pediatrics, it was front page news.

The CDC is calling for a national response because over the long term, the “Autism tsunami” as it has been called, will create an as of yet unknown cost to our society as we as a people aim to respond to the needs of this group of children, teenagers and adults. The numbers are going up, the list of questions grows and the jury is still out on why.

But for educators, most important question should always be how do these children learn? It is important to be aware of learning styles since they greatly influence learning success. Generalizing very simplistically, all children have three basic learning styles: Visual learners respond to visual methods like pictures, images and by watching demonstrations whereas auditory learners learn through listening, whether to recordings or oral explanations such as lectures. Kinesthetic learners learn through doing. They watch and then imitate "hands on." Mainstream kids can often adapt and utilize all of these styles in their learning. Autistic children however, almost always and exclusively learn with their eyes.

Visual Learning . Audio Visual display......we are on the cusp of something wonderful.