Autism – Signposts and Support
Autism is a developmental difficulty which is experienced by the individual throughout their life. The focus of the difficulty is that it affects how the individual perceives the world and how they manage to communicate with others.
Like a lot of other developmental difficulties, such as dyslexia, it is described as a spectrum condition, with each individual finding that the difficulties they experience are similar but more or less intense for them, depending upon the degree of difficulty that they experience and, over time, the strategies that they are able to put in place to help them to manage. This means that children experiencing autism are broadly similar but they are rarely exactly alike.
So what might we see in a child who is experiencing autism? What can we do to help?
They will be having difficulties with social interaction, sometimes with all people and sometimes finding their peer group more of a challenge. They may seem unaware of other people as people with feelings and may seem insensitive, their responses might seem inappropriate as a result. It’s helpful to be specific, descriptive and clear when telling them how you are feeling about something.
A child with autism may not turn to a person for comfort, finding touch irritating or the sound of a voice upsetting. It’s helpful to provide a quiet, safe place where they can go to calm down when upset.
They may have habits which seem strange or inappropriate to other people. It’s quite important to recognise that these habits may have developed to help them to manage in some situations or might be their way of expressing a specific emotion. It’s helpful to encourage these in specific situations and to gently replace any habits that might be socially unacceptable to the general public.
Social communication will be a challenge for a child experiencing autism. They often fail to detect or understand facial expressions, which is why more simplistic expressions become so helpful and enjoyable for them. They are also unlikely to be able to detect changes in tone of voice when being spoken to and may not employ different tones when talking. Again, specific, descriptive and clear communication is helpful. Jokes and sarcasm can pass them by or be taken literally and cause upset.
Many children experiencing autism will show repetitive routines or patterns of behaviour, sometimes they’ve developed these over time and find them helpful. Sometimes this is a series of actions which has been carefully taught to them. This can be really helpful to the child, but be prepared to add variations so that they do not become too locked in to one way of doing things.
It’s commonly recognised in the general public that people experiencing autism often have highly focussed interests. They can be obsessively interested in specific issues and be highly knowledgeable. These interests can be used in learning and can be very useful as rewards and soothing experiences.
One of the key issues for an autistic individual is the way they process the sensory information from the world around them. This means that they perceive and respond to things differently from the general norm. As a person working with a child with autism, it’s helpful to know what they find irritating, upsetting, soothing and enjoyable. If you keep this knowledge in your mind you can come to anticipate what will be upsetting for the child and what you can do to help the child manage the situation.
Does this resonate with you? Is a family member, someone you care or advocate for experiencing Autism? Progress can provide tailored support services that will help children and young people live normal lives, exceed expectations and grow in confidence. Give us a call on 01902 561066 or fill in the quick enquiry form below and find out what Progress can offer.