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The Problem With Repetition in Special Education

Tuesday, August 22, 2017 | 12:00 AM

When you earn an online Master of Education in Special Education degree, you will complete coursework on the best methods for teaching special education students, including children affected by autism.

Though conventional belief holds that repetition is the most effective way to teach learners with autism, a recent study contests this idea. This new study suggests that repetition is not the best way to teach students with autism and that instructors teaching special education students may need to change their therapies and interventions when working with children on the autism spectrum.

Overview of the Study

This study, conducted by a team of international scientists, followed 20 adults with autism and 19 adults without autism. The study was broken into two phases. Phase one asked 10 participants with autism and nine participants without autism to find three diagonal lines on a computer screen. The lines were surrounded by horizontal lines. For four days, the scientists repetitively measured each participant’s speed and accuracy in finding the diagonal lines. The scientists found that both groups — autistic and non-autistic — did equally well.

But on the fifth day, the scientists moved the lines to a different place on the screen. The participants with autism had a harder time finding the new lines, and on each subsequent day of the test, they became slower and less accurate. During the next phase of the study, participants were given breaks from the exercise in the form of “dummy screens,” in order to rest their visual systems. Both groups did equally well, and researchers observed improved accuracy and speed in the group with autism.

The scientists posited that the “drilling” exercises of the first four days negatively affected the participants with autism. Furthermore, they suspected that the participants with autism formed a fixed learning experience through the repetitive process, which affected their ability to learn the second location of the lines. When the scientists provided the second group with a less regimented experience, the group with autism showed increased learning.

New Recommendations Resulting From the Study

The scientists concluded that individuals with autism perform better with breaks from repetition. This allows the brain’s processing systems to rest, ensuring that the individual does not become overstimulated. The scientists also recommend that instructors take a flexible approach to teaching those with autism. This includes taking breaks from repetitive activities, alternating learning processes and using realistic teaching scenarios so that students can learn new skills and accept change.

Candidates for an online master’s degree in special education will learn the latest recommendations for teaching special education students, based on the most recent educational research.

Learn about University of Texas Rio Grande Valley online M.Ed. in Special Education degree program.


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