Autism is a spectrum condition. With the right sort of support, all children and young people with Autism can learn and develop.
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.
There is continuing debate on the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Condition. Currently more men and boys are diagnosed than women and girls. The figures from historical studies are being questioned, particularly around the diagnosis of girls with Autism. It is argued that current diagnostic tools are usually based on male characteristics leading to an under diagnosis of girls. In 2017 a systematic review of existing prevalence studies was carried out and found that the male to female relationship was nearer 3:1. (1)
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.
- A range of specialist education and behavioural programmes have proved effective in developing and improving the skills of children and young people 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.
(1) What is the male-to-female ratio in autism spectrum disorder? A systematic review and meta-analysis
Loomes R, Hull L, Mandy WPL, 2017