Nick News

Understanding Autism


Students will embrace an understanding of Autism and the impact on individuals with Autism, their families, the community, and themselves. Students will be more sensitive to the differences of others both on and off the Autism Spectrum.

McRel Behavioral Studies Standards-Students will understand:
Group and cultural influences contribute to human development, identity, and behavior.
The behavior of people can be affected by the media.
People might feel uncomfortable around others who dress, talk, or act differently from themselves.
Various meanings of social groups, general implications of group membership, and different ways that groups function.

Poster Board (KWL chart) (Different vs. Special)
DVD-Private Worlds: Kids and Autism-Nick News with Linda Ellerbee
Worksheet based on video
Index Cards
Writing Utensils
Glasses with Vaseline coated on the lenses
Ice packs
Where's Waldo pages
Sneakers with shoelaces
Excerpt from Temple Grandin's Thinking in Pictures

Introduction Lesson – Being Different:

The first lesson will address defining differences amongst the class, weighing the pros and cons of these differences, and reflection on social implications of being different. It will instigate thoughts on group dynamics and school culture revolving around individuality. This lesson will introduce the phrase Autism and assess the students’ current knowledge base of Autism utilizing a KWL chart (Know, Want to Know, Learned) focusing on what they currently know and what they are curious to learn about

Procedure for Lesson 1:

1. Welcome students into class, ask them to take out a pen or pencil and read the words and definitions on the poster board in front of the class. Prior to their entering class the word Different should be written on a sheet of poster board along with the definition: not the same as, partly or totally unlike in nature, form, or quality. Also on the board should be the word Special: distinguished by some unusual quality, held in particular esteem (Merriam Webster Dictionary).
2. Ask for a volunteer to hand out index cards to the class.
3. Direct students to write the word different on one side of the card and write the numbers 1 – 5 and on the other side write the word special also with the numbers 1 – 5.
4. Give the students 5 – 10 minutes to individually write 5 ways they are different and 5 ways they are special. Assure them they do NOT have to put their names on the cards and that they should be honest for the exercise to be meaningful.
5. Give the students a warning when there are 2 minutes left. Instruct students to bring their index cards up to you when they are finished.
6. When all of the index cards are in, begin writing a few responses on the poster board under each category. Instruct students to maneuver their desks into a circle to prepare for a round robin discussion.
7. Tell students this lesson is intended to identify the perspective of the class on how we as a society (school culture) tend to look at people’s differences in a negative light and specialties more positively. It is an opportunity to embrace individuality without judgment and support each other as a group.
8. Ask for students’ opinions about the two lists. How do they personally define each word? The implications of the words as students in society today? The pressures to either stand out or conform? Tell the students after about 10 – 15 minutes the discussion is a lead in to a lesson on Autism. 9. Take down the different/special poster board and put up the KWL chart. Columns should already be made with the words Know, Want to Know, and Learned in them. Ask students if anyone has ever heard of Autism. Have them define Autism as they understand it and write it in the Know column. Ask if anyone has a family member with Autism or knows anyone with Autism in their community without naming names. Have them describe what Autism looks like to them and write it in the Know column.
10. Ask students what they are interested in learning about Autism and write it in the Want to Know column. 11. Tell students that next class you will be viewing a Nick News Documentary on Autism. Have the students return their desks to their regular locations and be dismissed.


Students will be assessed on participation in class discussion, active listening, and completion of index cards based on teacher observations in class.

Middle Lesson: Private Worlds: Kids and Autism-Nick News with Linda Ellerbee

This lesson will address the power of the media to educate students on Autism, definition of Autism, and the connection between individuality, diversity, and the power of acceptance and understanding. This lesson will have students reflect on the experiences of the children with Autism in the video and their families. It will also address the value in being a good friend and participating in groups that support education and experiences for people on the Autistic Spectrum.

Procedure for Lesson 2:

1. Welcome students to class. Have KWL chart up from last lesson, tv set up and dvd ready to be turned on. Hand out worksheets and tell students to take notes while viewing the documentary as it will help them afterwards in participation of class discussion.
2. Review KWL chart and ask if anyone has anything to add before viewing the documentary. Write any responses on poster board. Ask class to remain quiet and respectful during viewing. Turn on dvd, view documentary.
3. Give students 1 – 2 minutes to stretch, get a drink of water, etc. Direct class to move seats into circle for round robin discussion.
4. Review overall thoughts on the documentary. Did the students like it? Find it informative? Have a new awareness/sensitivity to people dealing with Autism? Feel inspired to get involved in Autism Awareness?
5. Ask students to address each question on the worksheet.
6. Wrap up discussion by returning to KWL chart and having students volunteer things they have learned from the documentary and following discussion. Write responses on KWL chart.
7. Finally bring out the Different/Special Poster board and ask students to discuss how the children in the video living with Autism are both different from others and what defines them as special.
8. Conclude discussion by suggesting students think about how getting to know someone with Autism, volunteering, and making the community more aware about Autism might make them a person who is not only different but also special and concerned with the well being of others as well as themselves.
9. Have students return their desks to regular arrangement and let them know there will be one final lesson next class focusing on the experience of having Autism. Let them know it will be a very hands on approach.


Students will be assessed on completion of worksheet, appropriate behavior during video, and participation in group discussion based on teacher observations.

Final Lesson: The Sensory Challenge:

This lesson is intended to give students an experiential understanding of what it might feel like to be Autistic. It is meant to connect students to peers with Autism by shared awareness of sensory disregulation and difficulty. When given similar obstacles in lesson that peers have to cope with constantly due to neurological wiring students might feel less inclined to exclude peers on the spectrum having a new found sensitivity to the experience.

Procedure for Final Lesson:

1.Welcome the students into class. Have the room arranged in 3 sections before they arrive. The desks should be arranged with the following labels and materials •Visual processing – glasses with Vaseline coated lenses, mazes, where’s waldo pages, markers •Auditory processing & Tactile Sensitivity – headphones, ice packs, excerpt from Temple Grandin’s Thinking in Pictures •Motor Planning- sneakers with shoelaces, mittens
2. Give students a couple of minutes to decide on an area to sit before explaining the exercises at hand.
3. Once everyone is seated remind students of the video they watched last class. Ask them to recap some of the difficulties people with Autism deal with emotionally and physically. Ask that the students consider these things as they move forward with their set activities.
4. Walk around the classroom explaining to each group what they are to do with the materials in their area. Explain that they will have 10 minutes to ensure everyone has a chance to experience the activity before rotating to the next. •Visual Processing – put on the glasses and try to complete one of the mazes and find waldo wkshts then take them off and do another maze and waldo sheet – take note of the difference in your physical experience, time in completing the process, and personal, emotional response. •Auditory Processing & Tactile Sensitivity – place the ice packs on your seats and put on the headphones – have a member of the group read an excerpt to you from Temple Grandin’s Thinking in Pictures – take note of your ability to process what is being read to you, your physical response to the ice packs, and your personal, emotional response. •Motor Planning – put on the mittens and try to tie both shoes as you normally would – take note of your physical response and the level of difficulty it takes to do such an every day task – take note of your personal, emotional response.
5. After all students have had the opportunity to experience each area have them return the desks to their normal arrangement. Ask students to briefly reflect out loud on the difficulties they experienced with each activity.
6. Have students write down final assignment of total lesson. Direct them to write a letter to either a person with Autism or a member of their family stating new found knowledge of Autism based on all three lessons. Letters must include acknowledgement and sensitivity to the trials of Autism as well as positive notes on what it means to care for someone with Autism, why community awareness is important, and how learning about Autism has changed the students’ perspective on what it means to be different and special.


Students will be assessed on participation in sensory activities and completion of written assignment. Letters will be graded on inclusion of definition of different and special, community awareness, and knowledge gained throughout lessons on the experience of Autism. Spelling and grammar will also be factored into grade.

Amanda Friedman/ Special Ed Teacher/ Mentor/ Advocate