The purpose of this exercise is to help students understand that individuals with autism are often more sensitive to noise and movement than the average person. It’s important to reinforce that not everyone with autism is more sensitive to movement and sound, but many autistic individuals are.
5 paragraphs of reading material with questions on each paragraph
An additional book for extra reading material
An index card
For this exercise, you should divide your class into groups of five. Every group member will play a unique role in the exercise.
Child 1: The first group member will play the role of an individual with autism. His or her job will be to listen to what group member #5 is reading so that they can later take a test on the material.
Child 2: The second group member will need to stand behind child #1 with an index card. Group member #2 will gently rub the edge of the index card up and down the back of the neck of child #1 for the entire exercise.
Child 3: The third group member will take a book or some form of reading material and read to child #1 out loud the entire duration of the exercise.
Child 4: The fourth group member will pat child #1 on the head or shoulders the entire duration of the exercise.
Child 5: The fifth group member will read a paragraph to child #1 and then ask questions about the paragraph.
Have all of the group members switch roles after each paragraph so that everyone has a turn to be the student with autism. Once the exercise is complete, huddle your students up and ask them about the exercise. How did it feel to have so much going on at one time? Was it overwhelming? Was it hard to handle? Were students able to concentrate on the paragraph being read and what would have made it easier? This exercise will hopefully help your students understand that they need to be more mindful of sensory sensitivity.
Spotlight: Dan Aykroyd
Once you’ve completed a discussion on some of the challenges, you can move on to discuss some of the notable American figures who have fallen somewhere on the autism spectrum and made a huge difference in the world.
It may not be very well known, but actor and comedian Dan Aykroyd falls on the autism spectrum. Aykroyd has a mild form of Asperger’s. He was also diagnosed with Tourette’s at age 12. Thanks to therapy, he was able to minimize the symptoms of his Tourette’s by age 14. Aykroyd says symptoms of his Asperger’s include obsessions with ghosts and law enforcement. The comedian carries a police badge around wherever he goes and has always idolized the famous ghost hunter, Hans Holzer. Aykroyd credits Asperger’s and his obsessions with the development of his most famous movies, Ghostbusters and The Blues Brothers.
Other notable individuals on the autism spectrum include Susan Boyle and Satoshi Tajiri (the creator of Pokemon). Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Emily Dickinson, and Lewis Carroll are also suspected to have fallen somewhere on the autism spectrum according to certain psychologists.