Alyssa lives with her parents and ten-year-old brother. She has a diagnosis of Autism. When she was a toddler, her mother felt that Alyssa “looked right through me”. Eventually she was able to show affection to her mother, but wanted nothing to do with anyone else. Today it is quite a different story. At the age of 8, Alyssa had become a very sociable little girl. Her mother credits Alyssa’s early intervention, pre-school, and kindergarten programs for helping her to gradually learn to perform tasks, interact with others, and participate in group activities. She has also benefited greatly from full inclusion in regular elementary school classes, where she has developed valuable relationships with typical children of her age.
We visit Alyssa in her third grade classroom at Alta Vista School in Redondo Beach, California. She had participated in special education classes for her first three years at the school, and by the third grade is included in regular classes with her peers. She receives special education services to support her in this regular school setting, which include a resource specialist, speech and occupational therapy, and an aide who helps her to complete her schoolwork.
Alyssa does have some difficulty remaining focused in class, especially when the work is presented in a more verbal or auditory fashion. She is most successful when she can use visual learning tools. Her aide helps her to adapt and remain focused on assignments during these times. Although she has many friends at school who help to support her, Alyssa does experience some challenges when in less structured social situations with peers. She tends to say whatever she thinks, and has a little more trouble “reading” others’ feelings. But she loves having friends, and she enjoys several social activities outside of school as well, such as swimming, bowling, and soccer.