Special Education Report Roundup

Autism

By Sarah D. Sparks — February 14, 2017 1 min read

Adults with autism spectrum disorders often leverage strong interests into careers and ways of calming themselves, but many teachers discourage strong interests as limiting, according to a study published online Jan. 31 in the journal Occupational Therapy in Mental Health.

The study, led by Kristie Patten Koenig, an occupational therapist at New York University, builds on prior research showing that many students with autism develop “preferred interests"—deep, intensive knowledge about a particular subject, from the mechanics of trains to the history of animation. Historically, some teachers have seen these as “obsessive” and tried to discourage them, Koenig found.

However, based on in-depth surveys of adults with autism, the researchers found that 86 percent used those strong childhood interests in their current careers. More than half reported parents supporting those interests, but only 1 in 10 reported teachers supporting strong interests.

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A version of this article appeared in the February 15, 2017 edition of Education Week as Autism

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