With the DSM 5 came a new category for diagnosing individuals with social communication challenges that do not meet the full criteria for Autism. I was fortunate to hear Dr. Sam Goldstein speak on this topic a few years ago at the Learning and the Brain Conference in San Francisco (2014). At the time, I was naive to understand the full impact this would have in supporting students with social communication challenges alongside the changing definitions for autism.
The challenge for these students in the public school system is the educational eligibility for services. How does this medical definition fit with current educational eligibility options of Autism and/or Speech and Language Impairment? As we move toward learning expectations such as explaining thinking about concepts, collaborative dialogue and problem-solving, social deficits will impact their ability to access the social learning classroom. Furthermore, for these students, it may not be obvious at first glance that the reason they are not explaining their thinking is because their mind is not automatically wired to do so. My experience gives me a lens of understanding that even though the process is not automatic they can learn. In the meantime, there are supports and interventions we can provide these students toward meaningful experiences.
As an Education Specialist supporting students with Social Cognitive Challenges I am curious to understand how your districts and school sites are addressing student needs surfacing with increased focus on social learning experiences. Parents, educators and service providers, your voice matters as we create capacity for our students to receive intervention and supports in public education.
If this topic is new learning for you, explore this post by Autism Speaks.