What is autism?
Autism is a developmental disability affecting the way people interact with the world. In the UK, there are currently around 700,000 autistic adults and children.
It is a broad term which refers to a range of challenges, from social skills to nonverbal communication. It is a spectrum disorder, meaning that each person has their own set of strengths and weaknesses.
Some people with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) will require a lot of support in their daily life, while others will require less support.
Signs and symptoms
Signs and symptoms of autism can vary depending on several factors. This blog however will focus on the signs presented in children, both young and older, as well as autism in girls and boys.
Autism in younger children
Some of the main signs of autism in young children include:
- Not talking as much as other children
- Avoiding eye contact
- Not responding when someone calls their name
- Repetitive movements
- Repeating the same phrases
Autism in older children
- Not understanding what others are thinking
- Repeating phrases
- Sticking to a strict daily routine and getting upset if it changes
- Preferring to be alone or struggling to make friends
- Difficulty expressing how they feel
- Having a strong interest in very specific subjects
Autism in boys and girls
Another factor affecting the signs of autism is gender. It is often more difficult to spot autism in girls, as they may:
- Hide their signs by copying the behaviours of others
- Withdraw from difficult situations
- Cope better with social situations
For more information on autism in girls, click here.
Strategies to support autistic students
Something you’ll find when working with autistic students is the difficulty they have in communicating and interpreting.
Here are two things you can do:
- Be mindful of how you structure your sentences
- Don’t overcomplicate the language you use
Clear instruction is best. This helps avoid confusion and is easier for them to understand.
Establish a routine
For autistic children, the world can seem confusing. Because of this, they find comfort in establishing a daily routine and sticking to it.
A visual timetable can be extremely helpful. Simple text and images can be used to describe any activities they will be carrying out on the day. To avoid confusing, ensure the timetable is in chronological order.
Doing so will allow them to understand what they will be doing in advance, reducing their anxiety.
Manage changes promptly
Changes to the routine can overwhelm autistic students. These changes may be impossible to avoid, but you can prepare the student beforehand.
For example, the classroom you usually use may not be available on a specific day. If you will be using a different classroom instead, let the student know well in advance. You could even take them to see the classroom beforehand so they can familiarise themselves with it.
This gives them the time to adjust and mentally prepare, making the experience more manageable for them.
Incorporate their interests
One of the signs of autism is forming highly-focused interests. By incorporating this into their school day, they are likely to feel happier and more motivated, adding meaning to their learning.
If a student is interested in trains, find a way of incorporating that into their learning. Integrate it into maths problems, creative projects…
Use this and see their learning skyrocket!
Be mindful of sensory overload
Children with autism are likely to experience some form of sensory overload within school.
Simple adjustments will enhance their learning and manage their sensitivity.
If your student is sensitive to noise, consider giving them headphones to minimize distractions and reduce background noise.
Tailoring to their needs, whatever they may be, will help them remain calm.
Work with their parents / carers
More often than not, parents know their child best.
In order to succeed in your role and support the child to the best of your ability, it is essential to communicate with their parents or carers.
You can both share information on what you find works and helps the child. These suggestions will help the child both at school as well as at home.
We hope that this gives you an overall understanding of what autism looks like in a child and how you can best support them in your role. And if you’re still searching for your dream role, check out our jobs page or register with us here!