Autism is a spectrum condition affecting 1 in every 100 children. Boys are 3 to 4 times more likely to develop autism than girls.
The National Autistic Society describes Autism as ‘a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others.’ It goes on to say ‘autism is not an illness or disease and cannot be cured.’
Autism is a spectrum condition, meaning that people with autism share certain difficulties but they will be affected in different ways. People with autism may also experience anxiety, mental health conditions and learning disabilities.
Features of autism
- Problems and difficulties with social interaction which can appear as a lack of understanding and awareness of other people’s emotions and feelings.
- Impaired language and communication skills which can show as delayed language development or an inability to start or properly take part in conversations.
- Unusual patterns of thought and physical behaviour like making repetitive physical movements.
- These can show as hand tapping or twisting and developing set routines of behaviour which can then cause the child to become very upset if the routines are then broken.
Treatments for autism
There is no cure for autism but there are a range of specialist education and behavioural programmes, often known as interventions, which have proved effective in improving the skills of children with autism.
- Talk to the student and their family to find out what strategies help them manage at home.
- Design routines that take account of the student’s individual needs and strengths.
- Consider the sensory environment, as many people with Autism have heightened sensitivity to smell, sound and sensation.
- Ask parents / carers if the young person has a sensory profile and if so, use this information when organising the classroom.
- Use of metaphor is unhelpful.
- A calm voice and clear instructions are helpful.
- Establish clear classroom routines, this helps all students in the class.
- Provide a calm and quiet space for working in class and a time out area for when the classroom becomes overwhelming.
- Use a student's interests as a starting point for learning new things.
- Distraction activities such as mindfulness colouring, fiddle toys and puzzles can help reduce anxiety.
- Provide ear defenders to minimise noise, this helps concentration as well as reducing anxiety.
- Whenever possible give warning to a change of routine.
- Explain in advance what will happen on school trips or unfamiliar school events.
- Offer reassurance, repeatedly if necessary.