In Do2Learn's blog, Transition Toolbox—How Does ASD Affect Transitions?, we told you we would be addressing core features that have a significant impact on the transition process. Today we will discuss organization and central coherence. We hope that allowing these peeks into our new product are peaking your interest!
Some individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) show significant difficulty with sequential organization and planning of multi-step tasks. Shifting of focus to use new or unexpected information in a task may pose a problem for some. Many seem to process information in a limited set of categories and struggle to integrate new information into existing mental frameworks. This has led to a theory of central coherence suggesting that many individuals with ASD have difficulty seeing the ‘big picture.’ New information, especially around meaning, context, and social interaction, can be missed or misinterpreted. Generalization of skills is a consistent challenge for many individuals with ASD. This difficulty applying skills previously learned under one condition to new conditions implies problems shifting focus and using a concept or rule when certain features of a setting or condition change.
There continues to be controversy confirming a central coherence deficit as a primary descriptor of ASD. A less debatable observation is that certain individuals with ASD have difficulty deciding how to use new information in social and cognitive problem-solving situations. For an individual with ASD, figuring out what a new event means and how to ‘fit’ it into life can be confusing. These common difficulties for individuals with ASD in assessing new information, in weighing the ‘pros’ and cons’ in decision making, and in planning the steps to complete a task require transition team members to adjust their thinking. If individuals with ASD have problems assessing how to apply their strengths and weaknesses in vocational and social situations, in determining their goals or in planning a course of action, there will be challenges in self-determination and self-advocacy.
In transition planning, the prominence of inventory assessments to evaluate strengths and interests is obvious. Yet the difficulties related to organization and central coherence often make inventory assessments absurdly ineffective in identifying directions for transition planning for individuals with ASD. Assessments of preferences and strengths related to career goals must be individualized.
Building self-determination skills is feasible and important.
- First, provide multiple experiences in vocational and community environments. Without the opportunity to practice and experience work activities, work environments, and the social contexts of those work settings, individuals with ASD may confront failure or frustration in future settings.
- Second, provide visual supports to help the individual self-evaluate and compare experiences so that the individual can define preferences and self-advocate to the highest degree possible. These visual supports should be provided within a systematic framework of direct instruction, using established behavioral principles, that assures application and generalization of skills.
- Providing opportunities for hands-on exploration of work and academic experience must be followed by individualized and systematic self-assessment of the experience to support self-advocacy in career planning.
To address cognitive differences in ASD and to assist self-determination, the instructor must provide multiple experiences and visual supports provided within a framework of direct instruction. This is one primary goal of the JobTIPS Transition Toolbox.