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Education news and issues in the Ozarks.

Understanding the Needs of Children with Autism


Individuals with autism experience the world differently, and often have challenges with social situations or communication.

Dr. Megan Boyle, associate professor of special education at Missouri State University, is a board-certified behavior analyst. She runs a clinic for children with autism spectrum disorders and prepares the next generation of educators for behavior issues in the classroom.

Boyle wants to empower caregivers with practical and sustainable treatment options for problem behaviors. One step is improving communication and providing positive reinforcement for functional communication.

One of the behaviors she has studied in-depth is called elopement, a term used for leaving an area without permission. She has found that this largely under-studied behavior can have several reasons for developing.

  • Attention-seeking: Caregivers naturally chase a child who is running away.
  • Escaping a task, place or situation: Children with autism often want to escape a specific situation because it may be unfamiliar, unpleasant or overstimulating.
  • Sensory seeking: A child may run because he enjoys the pounding of the pavement, the strain of the leg muscles or the wind whipping against his face.
  • Accessing an object or activity: When it’s out of reach, bolting may seem like the only option.
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