Autistic Spectrum Disorder
What’s it mean?
- Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder, and is a diagnosis that has to be precise to be useful
- Autism is measured on a scale called the Autistic Spectrum and can be mild or severe
- Around 6 in every 1000 are affected, with four times as many boys as girls
- At one end of the spectrum, a child can be a high achiever; at the other end, they may have profound learning difficulties.
What does it look like?
- Social Interaction
- Inability to empathise with others
- Difficult to understand others feelings and/or behaviour
- May appear withdrawn and make little attempt to make friends
- May sometimes use inappropriate greetings, touching, or aggression
- May become stressed and confused in social situations
- Difficulty making sense of using verbal communication
- Difficulty communicating with facial expression, gesture and body language
- May avoid eye contact
- Some never develop speech, others experience a delay
- Learnt language can be repetitive from phrases learnt from adverts or cartoons
- In contrast, some may be brilliant speakers, but may have difficulties understanding others, and tend to interpret literally.
- Thought and Imagination
- Fixated with single activity
- More interested in objects than people
- Changes in routine cause distress, because they depend on routine to make sense of their environment
- Additional Difficulties
- Hand flapping, rocking or spinning
- Sensitivity to noise, smell, taste touch or visual stimuli
- Erratic sleeping patterns
- Unusual eating habits
- Self injury
- Aggressive behaviour
- A strange posture, eg walking on tip toes
- Irrational fears or phobias
If your child exhibits any of these symptoms, it does not automatically mean they have Autistic Spectrum Disorder. All specific educational needs have to be carefully diagnosed by a professional. If you have any concerns, please talk with your child’s class teacher or your doctor, and they will investigate further.
What can parents do?
- Have a structured home life – use labels and specific areas for tasks
- Provide an individual work area – acknowledge the need for personal space
- Use a visual timetable and task lists
- Consider lighting and noise levels
- Introduce one skill at a time
- Be positive and patient – keep calm and be flexible
- Always refer to the child by name – they may not realise ‘everyone’ refers to them
- Use obsessions as rewards and encourage interaction through activities they enjoy
- Teach them to recognise behaviours, emotions, body language
- Do not expect eye contact and never turn their face to look at you
- Keep verbal instructions brief and simple
- Use stories to teach social communication / interaction
- Teach jokes, puns and metaphors
- Disapprove of inappropriate behaviour not the child
- Provide clear boundaries for behaviour
- Prepare for changes in advance
- Make good use of computers
- Have high expectations
Where can I get more information?
You can find out more about Autistic Spectrum Disorder by talking to your child’s class teacher or our Special Needs Co-ordinator. Alternatively, you can visit http://www.nas.org.uk