What is Autism?
Autism is a lifelong neuro-developmental difference. This means it is a condition that affects the development of the brain. Autism affects the way a person communicates and interacts with others, how information is processed and how the person makes sense of the world. Autism is a medical diagnosis and as such referral is made via your GP.
Autism is however not one size fits all. It presents in individuals in many different ways, and can be triggered by a wide variety of experiences. Autism is a spectrum condition. All autistic individuals share certain difficulties, but being autistic will affect them in different ways and need different levels of support. All children on the autism spectrum learn and develop. This being said, children on the Autistic Spectrum tend to share many characteristics and as such the strategies that we use in Whinhill classrooms are relevant to many and indeed support all children as they develop.
The most successful support derives from knowing individual children, their triggers and their supports. These include but are not restricted to:
- Building a relationship and listening to children and how they express their needs.
- Being conscious of the language we use – some children can be very literal and do not understand inference or idioms. 5 more minutes should really mean 5 more minutes otherwise it could have a negative impact.
- Incorporates children’s interests into learning wherever possible to encourage engagement.
- Consider the environment, temperature, draughty, lighting, noise levels, ease of seeing the board, discreet access to the teacher.
- Being inclusive
- Being informed
There are other areas in which pupils could benefit from adult support.
Routine gives an element of control. Children like the usual routine of school; times, sharing of a daily plan and regular breaks. To have some form of routine is usually helpful and it would be more meaningful if the child is involved in the setting of this.
Maintaining Good Sleep
It is also helpful to try to maintain bedtime routines and good sleep hygiene techniques. Sleep is so important to mental state, and the following are suggestions.
- Engaging in some form of exercise if possible in the day.
- Only using the bed for sleep at night time (not sitting on it on iPads during the day, for example).
- No screens an hour before bed, read a book or play a board game instead.
- Establishing and maintaining a bed time routine so the body learns the next thing in the routine is sleep.
- Go to bed at the same time every day and get up at the same time every day, whether a week day or weekend.
These are in fact tips that Mrs McGhee also uses just for general health and wellbeing!