Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tips from Dr. Raby Bouras, Ph.D. Pediatric Neuropsychologist

Tips to assist higher functioning students with 
autism spectrum disorders achieve their potential

Guest Blogger:
Dr. Raby Bouras, Ph.D. Pediatric Neuropsychologist

When trying to support their special needs child or student, the first and most important issue one
needs to address is to try to understand what their “special needs” are. Two children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be very different. Needs, services, accommodations or any other interventions should be tailored to that child’s specific profile. To complicate matters further, a child’s profile varies throughout the years, and can vary by leaps and bounds after years of plateauing. Having a child assessed every few years by a paediatric neuropsychologist allows one to understand where the student’s strengths and weaknesses lie at each stage.  

Knowing reliable and pertinent measures such as their intellectual profile, true reading, writing and math skills, attention and executive functioning, and general level of social and adaptive functioning, are critical.  This knowledge helps us to understand the student’s needs at each stage of their general academic development.

With the basic knowledge that a neuropsychological follow-up provides, you can determine what resources to put in place. Although all  students on the spectrum can be supported, the following thoughts are specifically aimed at those that are “higher functioning”, meaning those who struggle through grade school, persevere through an adapted curriculum and are able to begin high school with at least a 3rd cycle reading and writing level. Whether they need six or seven years to achieve that level should not matter. What matters is that you can support their efforts, and are able to gage YOUR expectations and personal time table.

Special tools, therapies and minor accommodations to their learning environment can have major positive impacts. Knowing your student’s true academic level allows you to adapt their curriculum appropriately. For instance, typical cognitive profiles of students on the spectrum closely resemble those of students with learning disabilities (LDs). Although we cannot speak of LDs proper (i.e. dysorthographia, or ADD, etc.), accommodations used for students with LDs can have the same positive results on those with ASD.

Electronic dictionaries, computers with specialised software that help with reading comprehension and speed, additional time to finalize assignments and exams, and even separate testing environments can be game changers.

A pharmaceutical intervention is at times recommended. By addressing their inattentiveness and impulsivity, some prescriptions gives students the opportunity to make use of their intelligence, reach their potential, succeed, and follow their peers.

Social skills vary greatly from one student on the spectrum to the next.  Direct contact with an experienced practitioner can offer an objective measure of their social knowhow. Options available include social skills training, distant shadowing, or even joining a theatre company. All present new horizons and further inspire academic integration. Sometimes, simply allowing a student to repeat a year, to give them time to grow and mature, spontaneously solves some of the problems. Always remember that a child’s education is not a 100 meter dash, but rather a marathon. It is not necessarily the first one out of the gate that wins.

Dr. Raby Bouras, is a neuropsychologist specialised in paediatric care. He holds a doctoral degree from the only neuropsychology program in Quebec fully accredited by the Canadian Psychological Association. Having completed post-doctoral level training at such prestigious institutes as Havard Medical School and the Montreal Children’s Hospital, Dr. Bouras has extensive knowledge of childhood development. He is currently the director of the Laval Centre for Psychology and Neuropsychology. For information, visit or call the Centre at 514-312-7046.

*Ideas shared in this blog are those of the guest blogger.