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Developing a Virtual Learning Unit on Autism for Elementary School Students

Understanding Our Differences (UOD) is a nationally recognized, award-winning program based out of Newton, MA that uses a hands-on, participatory curriculum to foster respect, acceptance, and inclusion for people of all abilities in elementary schools and communities at large. In response to the new world of remote learning, Understanding Our Differences is preparing a concise, online version of its current two-hour, in-person curriculum unit on autism, focused on teaching students about this disability, with the support of the NLM Family Foundation. UOD will present its program to 5th grade students using the Zoom webinar feature, along with advance preparation and follow-up assignments for students to complete at home. The Zoom version of this unit will consist of an introduction to the topic and a talk by a speaker with autism using Zoom, with time for moderated Q&A. The goals of the program are to help students understand that autism affects the brain and social communication skills, and to introduce the concept of a spectrum. Program materials emphasize that individuals with autism have a wide range of abilities and that each individual is unique, with a combination of strengths and challenges. Understanding Our Differences is committed to ensuring that its disability awareness program remains relevant, especially at a time when the need for education about autism, and respect and inclusion for people with autism, continues to be urgent.