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Recommended Autism Resources for Developing Critical Thinking Skills
Autism Resources and Success Stories
June, 2009, by The Critical Thinking Co.™ Staff

The neurobiological disorder known as autism is part of a group of disorders known as autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Treatment and educational needs are often very similar for these conditions, even though there are subtle differences and degrees of severity among the disorders. Autism affects a person's ability to communicate and relate to others. It is also associated with rigid routines and repetitive behaviors, such as obsessively arranging objects or following very specific routines. Symptoms can range from very mild to quite severe.

The general term “autism” is often used either specifically to refer to Autistic Disorder (AD) or more generally to refer to ASD.  Another term that is often used synonymously with ASD is Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). This term is simply the diagnostic category heading under which five specific diagnoses are listed. The different diagnostic terms that fall under the broad meaning of PDD / ASD, include:

• Autistic Disorder (AD)
• Asperger’s Disorder
• Rett’s Disorder
• Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
• Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)

Autism disorders can usually be diagnosed by age 3; parents are usually the first to notice unusual behaviors in their child or a failure to reach appropriate developmental milestones.

If a child is diagnosed with autism, early intervention is critical. Although parents may have concerns about labeling a toddler “autistic,” the earlier the diagnosis is made, the earlier interventions can begin. There are no effective means to prevent autism, no completely effective treatments, and no known cure. Research indicates that early intervention, in an appropriate educational setting, for at least two years of preschool, can result in significant improvements for many young children with autism disorders. Effective programs focus on developing communication, social, and cognitive skills.

While products from The Critical Thinking Co.™ weren’t initially developed with autistic children in mind, over our 50-year history producing award-winning books and software, we’ve discovered (thanks to our customers) there are several titles parents with autistic children and teachers of autistic students find to be essential resources.
Many of our books and software programs can help children and adults living with autism. The Mind Benders® series presents challenging deductive reasoning activities for autistic children and adults. Building Thinking Skills® provides a comprehensive mix of visual-spatial and verbal skill development, highly recommended for teaching children and adults with autism. Math and Reading Detective® books and software can help children in grades 3 through 8, fine-tune reading comprehension and critical thinking skills in the content areas. Memory Challenge® software is an excellent tool for developing and testing visual memory skills. Visual Perceptual Skill Building® develops recognition of letters, words, numbers, and similar/dissimilar objects. It also improves sequencing and visual memory skills. Hands-On Thinking Skills uses manipulatives and helps non-verbal children increase their skills.

Here's what some of our customers have said regarding the use of our products with autistic children.

Carrie, a proud parent from pennsylvania, said, "My son (10) is on the autism spectrum.  He has a brilliant mind for facts and figures, but always struggled with his thought process. Mind Benders® and Building Thinking Skills® have given him solid direction in organizing his thoughts and following logical patterns. The progress my son has made in barely one year is incredible.  No therapy or modification has come close to having such an impact in the 6 years since his diagnosis. There are no words to express how thankful we are for The Critical Thinking Co.™."

"My daughter, age 14, has PDD/Autism. Also, she has an accompanying non-verbal learning disorder (this doesn't mean she doesn't talk; it means that she has trouble interpreting body language and other non-verbal information). Something she has always struggled with has been visual problem solving. We have been using The Critical Thinking Co.™ materials since she was small, as they were the only materials that broke down tasks into small enough chunks for her. As she has grown older, we have also been using the software, most recently the new Building Thinking Skills® software. The Mind Benders® software also presented many challenging visual-puzzle activities, and we have used all of the Math and Reading Detective® software to help her fine-tune her critical thinking skills in the content areas. When she was 12, I purchased [other] software… but The Critical Thinking Co.™ activities were more varied to hold her interest, and much more reasonably priced. The materials haven't 'cured' my daughter, of course, but they have helped her stick with practicing her skills even when it is difficult. She 'asks' to play the second Building Thinking Skills® software nearly every day. Thank you!" said parent Sandy from Maryland.

Polly Brophy from the LA Unified School District said, “I’m a special education teacher. I was surprised when my supervisor recommended I use The Critical Thinking Co.™ products for children below grade level. She said your books aren’t just for the gifted, and she was so right. Reading Detective® is wonderful for building verbal reasoning skills. One of my autistic students said the other day after finishing a lesson in Reading Detective®, ‘I can’t believe I can do this. I’m so proud!’ At first it wasn’t easy for them. Then they learned how to eliminate the wrong answers. Now some of them have gone up two whole grade levels. I wouldn’t have believed it was possible.”

“I am a very experienced teacher and cognitive trainer. One of my students was in the Special Education program for years; after working with the Building Thinking Skills® books he returned to grade level in seven months,” said Claudette Anderson, of Prescription for Success Learning Center in Parker, Colorado. “I have worked with various brands of thinking skills materials, but The Critical Thinking Co.™ has the best on the market."

“The Critical Thinking Co.™… is a breath of fresh air in a special needs market that too often finds publishers focused on isolated skills rather developing students’ flexible thinking ability,” said John Alexander, executive director of Chartwell School for language learning disabilities, Seaside, California.

Whether your child with autism is 18 months old, or 18 years old, he or she will still benefit from therapy. Early intervention is always helpful, but you're not too late to make a difference in life of your child.

As with all students, but especially autistic children, we highly recommend finding out what the student’s strengths and interests are and emphasize them in your lessons to increase engagement and retention. This simple approach approach builds confidence and nurtures a love of learning.

Helpful Resources:

Autism Society of America
Top Ten Facts About Autism
Symptoms of Autism
Before You Let an Autism Diagnosis Drive You Crazy
Austism Speaks