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Kristen N. Hausmann
Department of Biology
Coastal Carolina University
Michael's Story: A Case Study in Autism

This interdisciplinary case study introduces us to the Greens, a family with a recently diagnosed autistic child. Autism is one of several disorders grouped within the acronym ASD, or autism spectrum disorders. Autistic children have problems with communication (both verbal and nonverbal) and social interactions with parents, siblings, other children, teachers, etc. The “spectrum” in ASD refers in part to the range in autistic individuals of disability, from mild autism, which may appear as eccentric behavior, to severely disabling autism, which renders the individual unable to learn, socialize, or work in the world. In working through this case, students engage in a variety of activities to learn about the possible causative explanation for autism, its diagnosis, and treatment. A final activity is an optional writing exercise exploring the idea that there is intrinsic value in all persons' experiences, including those who are "different." Designed to interest general biology students as well as students of psychology and health studies, this case is particularly useful for introducing students to the tasks and concerns of several biomedical professionals.