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MARQUETTE — Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is the fastest growing disability in the United States.

“Autism is a pervasive developmental disability that affects about 1 in 68 children. It affects a number of domains in a child’s development, particularly acquisition language skills, social skills, and in repetitive or perseverate interests,” said NMU BEAR Center director, Jacob Daar.

Dr. Daar works in the NMU Bear Center, where he and a team of college students work one on one with young autistic children every day.

Services at the BEAR Center are free, and target early intervention learning through Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA.

“Almost all research suggests that the earlier the behavioral intervention and the more comprehensive and intense that is, the better the outcomes,” added Daar.

Some early signs of autism include: 

  • Lack of eye contact
  • Playing with toys in an un-functional way
  • Inappropriate behavior:
    • Hitting themselves
    • Screaming
    • Rocking
    • Mimicking back as main way to communicate
    • Being extremely rigid with routines

“If you’re worried that your child may be showing some of these signs….bringing it up to the school that your child is attending. If your child is younger than that, your school district is still responsible for early identification and early education,” said Daar.

Because ASD is becoming more and more common, some teachers throughout the state of Michigan are taking a training to better adapt to students with Autism.

“I believe that it’s our job as educators to truly try to find those strengths and build on them,” said Alicia Fure, a 1st grade teacher at Sandy Knoll Elementary in Marquette.

That’s why she took the START training, which taught her the importance of using visuals in the classroom.

“Every part of the brain besides the visual cortex is impacted by the Autism,” Fure says. “So, when you use those visuals, that’s the part of their brain that’s not effected. And so, you’re giving them the best chance to learn information.”

Some examples include visual schedules, and social stories…

“Why we wear shoes in school. Performances. Some children, they’re not quite sure. What does is mean, what’s a performance?  And so if you make a book about it and you explain what is a performance, and kind of lay everything out of what you do, then that helps the child to relieve their anxiety, and possibly be more successful when they do go to a performance,” Fure added.

Learn more information about ASD by clicking here.

Here are a couple of other local resources available to people with Autism in the Upper Peninsula: