Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
What is ASD?
ASD is a generic term used to describe people who have a common set of difficulties which affect communication, relationships and imagination. Individuals with ASD range from those with severe learning diffficulties to those with above average intelligence or high intelligence; the latter are referred to as having Asperger's Syndrome. ASD generally means that a child has difficulties in three areas of development. These areas are:
- Social interaction
Children with autism can display a marked aloofness and indifference to other people, a passive acceptance of social contact, or an inappropriately stilted and formal manner of interaction.
- Social communication
Children with autism range from not speaking or communicating at all, either by word or action, through to understanding words but not being able to understand the hidden rules of normal conversation or the nuances of meaning.
Children with autism are not able to use pretend play at all (preferring to line objects up, or sort them) but may show bizarre and sometimes obsessional interest in facts and figures, such as timetables, drainage systems, or motorway networks.
A diagnosis of autism will only be made if there is clear evidence of some degree of difficulty in all three areas of development. Of course, the severity of autism in a child varies considerably, and people with autism are often referred to as being somewhere on the ‘autistic continuum', because of the wide range of differences between them. Although autism is found in children of all abilities, it is more often linked with either moderate or severe learning difficulties.
What are the learning implications?
- The pupil will not respond as other pupils do – they will not seek contact or seek to take part in activities the way most pupils do
- They become anxious when routines are broken
- It is hard to know how much the pupil understands
- Structured routines and approaches to learning are really important
- Activities are necessary which reduce anxiety.
A TA can:
- learn about particular approaches which are appropriate for pupils with autism
- have a calm and consistent approach
- provide routines and structure
- help the pupil to communicate to the best of their ability.