What are the educational implications?
It is important to remember that each person with an autism spectrum disorder is an individual. Characteristics of the disability will present differently in each person and have varying impact upon their ability to positively participate in school. Understanding and catering for a student's individual strengths and challenges is essential for supporting them to reach their fullest potential during their school years.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) impacts on:
- social interactions
- restricted interests and behaviour
- sensory processing.
Potential strength areas:
- special interest area\s
- long-term and rote memory
- adherence to rules and sequences
- visual thinking and learning
- concrete concept understanding
- decoding text
- dependable (maintain schedules and routines)
- precise and detail oriented
- honest and genuine
- ability to focus (particularly for special interests).
Social interactions implications:
- difficulty engaging in and maintaining normal social contact (including friendships)
- lack of empathy - insensitivity to the feelings and needs of others
- inappropriate use of facial expressions and body language
- little awareness of personal space
- difficulty with interpreting non-verbal language (e.g. body language)
- lack of or abnormal eye contact
- inappropriate and naive social interactions
- lack of or difficulty displaying affection.
- poor language comprehension as compared to expressive language
- difficulty understanding non-verbal communication
- difficulty with symbolic or abstract language
- delays in speech acquisition
- unusual speech patterns (eg rhythm, pitch, intonation)
- echolalia - repetition of speech
- difficulties initiating and sustaining conversations
- difficulty listening and following directions when given to whole class.
Restricted interests and behaviour implications:
- may find surroundings confusing and unpredictable
- difficulties 'making sense' of classroom and/or learning activities
- changes in routines and/or environment may cause anger, fear, irritation and stress
- obsessive behaviour in relation to interest, hobbies and objects
- insistence on sameness and resistance to change
- ritualistic behaviour e.g. taking same route to places
- impaired creative and imaginative play
- inappropriate attachment to objects
- needing help but not knowing how to communicate need or who to go to for help.
Sensory processing implications:
- variable sensitivities depending upon situation and individual stress threshold
- delayed reaction/response
- anger, stress, or anxiety reactions
- auditory system (hearing) e.g. makes sounds to screen out unwanted noise
- visual system (sight) e.g. sensitive to pulsations in lighting
- tactile system (touch) e.g. avoids touch or contact
- olfactory system (taste & smell) e.g. dislike of strong smells such as perfume
- vestibular system (movement, balance, gravity) e.g. oblivious to danger of heights
- proprioceptive system (movement, one's own position) e.g. exerts too much pressure when handling objects
- gustatory (taste) e.g. only eats certain food.
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