What is Autism?
Autism is a lifelong condition that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them. There is no known cure but there are many ways to support someone with autism to improve their quality of life. Autism can affect different people in different ways. Something that may help one person with ASD, may not help someone else, and is often referred to as Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Some common behaviours that may be seen in young people with ASD may include:
• problems making friends
• taking what is said to them literally
• unpredictable emotional responses such as anxiety for no apparent reason
• repeating things over and over
• needing to stick to routines very closely and difficulty coping with changes
• difficulties maintaining attention
• avoiding things such as lights, colours, sounds, patterns, smells, touch by shutting eyes or blocking ears
• fascination with looking, smelling, licking objects
Support for learning
Young people can be assessed through the SEN specialist or referrals in schools and given a “statement of special needs”. This means that Individual Education Plans, additional support, and referrals to further professionals can be provided. There is no “one size fits all” in dealing with ASD, so schools will usually adapt the National Curriculum to include targets specific to ASD, such as remaining calm in a new situation or a specific aspect of independence. Alternative communication systems are used such as PECS which uses pictures to help aid communication, or teaching practises such as using whiteboards to encourage communication in a group setting. Modern Foreign Languages can be particularly successful as it teaches specific ways to behave in particular situations. For example, ordering drinks in a café or a restaurant.
Working with other professionals is often essential in supporting young people with Autism. Speech and Language Therapists can support work to develop communication skills, Occupational Therapists work to identify strengths and difficulties in carrying out everyday tasks or responses to things. This may be practical recommendations such as leaving a lesson a few minutes early to avoid the noise and busy corridors during lesson changes.
Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) professionals may offer counselling and other interventions, or a Child Psychologist to advise on behaviour. Nurses might deal with issues around eating or even going to the toilet. As ASD can present completely differently in each person, the most important issue is ensuring understanding for all involved, sharing knowledge and good practise.
Famous people with Autism
Many individuals with ASD are incredibly successful. James Durbin, an American singer, was diagnosed with ASD at the age of 10, as was Stanley Kubrick, film director. The fictional character of Sheldon in Big Bang Theory is often thought to have ASD. Susan Boyle from the X Factor is an example of someone who discovered later in life that they had ASD.
For more information, why not look at some of these websites:
So, if you know someone with ASD, remember it’s NOT them being “weird”, they just experience things in a different way!
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