What is Autism?
Autism is a developmental condition that is identified by a cluster of features.
THESE FEATURES INCLUDE:
Difficulties with social interaction - A child may find it difficult to interact with or may play alongside his friends rather than with them.
People with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) may show inappropriate social behaviour.
IMPAIRED VERBAL AND NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION.
These difficulties range from not being able to speak to talking\repeatedly about the same thing.
Restricted interests or activities.
such as lining up cars, talking about the same things, flapping hands etc.
RESISTANCE TO CHANGE:
Small changes may cause unhappiness or even extreme distress.
UNUSUAL SENSORY RESPONSES.
Hypersensitivity to sound, smell—high pain threshold.
Doing something in a certain order or number of times.
Extreme behaviours which can be worse in response to frustrations and stress.
Autism and Asperger's Syndrome are both on the autistic spectrum and share many of the same features, although they can appear to be very different.
The degree and severity of symptoms differs from person to person and the characteristics may change over time.
AUTISM IS NOT ........
- A CHILD BEING NAUGHTY OR ADULT BEING RUDE.
- THE RESULT OF POOR PARENTING OR EMOTIONAL STRESS.
- A WITHDRAWAL INTO FANTASY LIFE.
- A MENTAL ILLNESS. (SCHIZOPHRENIA).
- A WISH TO AVOID SOCIAL CONTACT.
- A MIDDLE CLASS DISORDER.
- A TRENDY NEW PHENOMENON.
The cause of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) is still unknown but it is thought to be biological, organic or genetic. It may result from a combination of several “causes”.
Diagnosis can be difficult to obtain.
ASD is distributed throughout the world among all races, nationalities and social classes.
Out of five people with autism are male and current research shows it occurs in 92 per 10,000 people.
People with ASD are often highly intelligent: Einstein had Asperger Syndrome ('apparently' - Ed.).
Autism and Asperger Syndrome can have a traumatic effect on the whole family.
HELPFUL HINTS AND TIPS.
Always use clear, simple precise and unambiguous language (e.g. NOT “wash your hands in the toilet....”).
Ensure that you say the child’s name before speaking to them.
Avoid using sayings such as “crying your eyes out” as these can be taken literally and may cause fear and distress.
Get confirmation of understanding, don’t rely on “yes” or “no” answers.
Avoid negatives, never tell people not to do something, it is clearer to focus on a positive action (e.g. never say “don’t run across the road”, say, “Stop at the kerb.”).
Always specify exactly what it is you want.
Start by giving one instruction at a time to avoid overloading the child. Over time they can be extended, when the child is ready.
Limit choices to one or two.
Allow time for information to be processed and expressed, do not nag or use rapid questions and answers.
Be ready for, and be tolerant of, phobic behaviour and be prepared to deal with reactions, e.g. remove object or child, use distractions.
Always be flexible and try to avoid confrontations.
Be prepared for adverse reactions to new experiences, people, or changes in routine, no matter how small or obscure they may seem to you.
Build self esteem through encouragement and praise.
Positively reinforce good behaviour and work with a reward, ensuring that it is the child’s idea of a reward (even when it is bizarre!).
Match tasks accurately.
Even the most able child with autism lacks internal structure: they require their environment and routines to be structured, organised and predictable so they gain a feeling of stability, security and order, (remember free choice can cause anxiety).
Pre-warn them of any changes but try to build in some flexibility in their routine.
Use visual aids wherever possible especially when dealing with abstract concepts.
In primary schools use pictures and photographs to back up language.
In senior schools use illustrations, timetables and diagrams.
Take care whenever imaginative thinking is required for example in RE or history when a child has to think about how people in the past were affected by events.
The National Curriculum should offer alternative subjects if needed.
Use the child’s own interests as starting points to make a subject relevant e.g. using pictures of Thomas the Tank and Friends to learn colours.
Allow the child extra time to complete tasks if they need it. Working to a time limit is often a problem. Secondary timetables can cause difficulties and extra time for GCSE examinations can be applied for.
Use home school links to achieve consistency of approach and gain useful feedback of reactions to school experiences.
Make sure the child always knows, where he has to be, what he is doing, how much he has to do, when he will know he is finished and what he will do next.
Teach clear roles or rules for social interaction.
Identify stress triggers, noises, smells.
Do not crowd the child, allow plenty of physical and personal space.
Make sure any visitors or supply teachers are made aware of the child’s condition.
Develop a 1 page profile for your child, this is a quick summery of your child’s needs and preferences.
Find strategies for calming. A walk outside, drawing, taking deep breaths, etc.
If all else fails, remain calm keep your voice at a low pitch and smile!!!