Understanding and supporting students on the spectrum

Grant Wood Area Education Agency’s autism core team provide a variety of services to support students on the autism spectrum and the staff who work with them.

These services include: agency inservices, on-site inservices, team consultation, student observation, attend IEP meetings, functional analyses, educating peers about autism, and a variety of other services to help support individuals in the autism spectrum and the staff working with them.

The team helps educators with research-based resources and strategies that also may be helpful for parents and families.

Contacting the GWAEA Autism Core team

Educators should contact the GWAEA support personnel within their specific building to contact the GWAEA Autism team. They will be able to share with you how to access the autism consultant for students with and without an IEP.

Need further assistance? Let us help you.

Understanding Autism


It’s important to understand that the State of Iowa sees a distinction between the medical and educational definitions of autism. The Iowa educational definition identifies Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders as a lifelong, developmental disability which typically appears in early childhood years. Students with Autism may exhibit varying degrees of atypical behavior that significantly interferes with the learning process in the following areas:

  • Communication
  • Social participation
  • The repertoire of activities, interests, and imaginative development
  • Developmental rater and sequences
  • Sensory processing
  • Cognition

Grant Wood AEA’s autism core team provides consultation to schools and, families. Educators can refer parents and families to the GWAEA lending library of materials available to professionals and families,. (Link to PEP.) We occasionally also offer training courses that parents might find helpful. Additionally, family support groups and additional resources are available.


•The student displays problems extending into many aspects of the communication process.
•Language, if present, may lack usual communicative function, content, or structure.
•Characteristics may involve both deviance and delay in both receptive and expressive language.

Social Participation

•The student displays difficulties in relating to people, objects, and events.
•Often students are unable to establish and maintain reciprocal relationships with people.
•The capacity to use objects in an age appropriate or functional manner may be absent, arrested, or delayed.
•The student may seek consistency in social events to the point of exhibiting rigidity in routines.

Repertoire of Activities, Interests, and Imaginative Development

•The student displays marked distress over changes, insistence in following routines, and a persistent occupation with or attachment to objects.
•The student may display a markedly restricted range of interest and/or stereo-typed body movements.
•There may be a lack of interest or an inability to engage in imaginative activities.

Developmental Rates and Sequences
•The student may exhibit delays, arrests, regressions in physical, social, or learning skills
•Areas of precocious or advanced skill development may also be present, while other skills may develop at normal or extremely depressed rates.
•The order of skill acquisition frequently does not follow normal developmental patterns.

Sensory Processing

•The student may exhibit unusual, repetitive, or non-meaningful responses to auditory, visual, olfactory, gustatory, tactile, and/or kinesthetic stimuli.
•The student’s behavior may vary from high levels of activity and responsiveness to low levels.


•The student may exhibit abnormalities in the thinking process and in generalizing.
•Difficulties in abstract thinking, awareness and judgment may be present as well as perseverative thinking and impaired ability to process symbolic information.

Learn More: Information from the Grant Wood AEA Autism Core Team