A noisy lunchroom, a break in the routine or a locker combination can unnerve Hanna Piccolo of Lincoln.
The Lincoln Pius student has Asperger Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. It affects her fine and large motor skills, ability to interact socially, sensitivity to noise, smells and touch, and visual and spatial perceptions.
Hann learned she had the disorder after undergoing testing toward the end of her eighth-grade year at Saint Theresa's. Her mom home schooled her the following year, and now she attends Lincoln Pius X.
Hanna meets with special education teacher Judy Faubel of Lincoln Public Schools once a week. She also attends a class once a week that helps focus on study skills and offers extra tutoring.
After high school, Hanna plans to enroll in the academic transfer program at Southeast Community College-Lincoln and transfer to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
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Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. The result of a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain, autism and its associated behaviors have been estimated to occur in as many as 1 in 500 individuals. Autism is four times more prevalent in boys than girls and knows no racial, ethnic, or social boundaries and there is no known cause.
Characteristics that may indicate autism:
Language develops slowly or not at all; uses words without attaching the usual meaning to them; communicates with gestures instead of words; short attention span;
Spends time alone rather than with others; shows little interest in making friends; less responsive to social cues such as eye contact or smiles;
May have sensitivities in the areas of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste to a greater or lesser degree;
Lack of spontaneous or imaginative play; does not imitate others' actions; does not initiate pretend games;
May be overactive or very passive; throws tantrums for no apparent reason; perseverates (shows an obsessive interest in a single item, idea, activity or person); apparent lack of common sense; may show aggression to others or self; often has difficulty with changes in routine.
Source: Autism Society of America [www.autism-society.org]