Should All Children with Autism Consider STEM Careers?
. . . exploring common misconceptions about students with autism
If you teach or counsel students, chances are you have heard a lot of myths and misconceptions about autism. You might have even come to believe some of them.
In today’s post, let’s look at the truth behind some common misconceptions.
Are all children with autism good at math?
Many people think they are, but a little research confirms that there is no correlation between autism and mathematical abilities; as is the case with all students, some students with autism find math easy and others find it difficult.
This misconception might have arisen because a small percentage of autistic children have nearly miraculous calendar skills – if you ask them a question like, “What day of the week was July 10, 1911,” they can give you the answer without referring to a calendar.
Reading resource: “Math Interventions for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Best-Evidence Synthesis” by Seth A. King, Christopher J. Lemons and Kimberly A. Davidson, Sage Journals, March 17, 2016.
Should all children with autism be encouraged to consider STEM careers?
The answer to this question is similar to the answer to the question we explored just above. Some children with autism, like all children, have aptitudes and strengths that equip them for STEM careers, while others do not.
This misconception might have arisen from the fact that many children with autism find it difficult to interact socially with other people. Because children with autism can find it more comfortable to “withdraw” and focus on what they are doing, some observers conclude that they have a strong ability to concentrate. But that does not mean that children with autism should be encouraged to consider STEM careers.
Reading resource: “Helping Students with Autism Succeed in STEM,” Education Insider, April 10, 2015.
Are autism and ADHD the same thing?
Granted, children who have these two conditions may exhibit similar behaviors, including difficulty processing information, emotional “meltdowns,” and a level of unease in situations that require social interactions. But that does not mean that the two conditions are the same thing. Plus, there is the fact that some children can have both Autism and ADHD.
Autism is a developmental disorder that affects a child’s ability to process certain kinds of information; it can also cause children who have it to have difficulty interacting with others. Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is different. It causes children to have difficulty concentrating, to be hyperactive, and to act impulsively.
The bottom line? Autism and ADHD are different conditions. They require separate diagnoses and different treatments.
Reading resource: “Autism vs. Learning and Attention Issues: What You Need to Know” by Amanda Morin, understood.org.
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Children with autism are attracted less to people and emotions but more to factual patterns. We should be focusing on the positive aspects of autism. Science education is key to remaining competitive in a global economy. It becomes imperative to discover previously untapped sources of STEM talent.” Students with autism could be one such source.