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Impact of Autism on Emotional Wellbeing
IMPACT Responding to the needs of pupils 

The pupil with autism may possess a scattered profile of abilities however the core areas of difficulty being primarily in social communication, social interaction, play, imagination and flexible thinking mean that they may be less likely to engage in shared experiences. This may impact on their motivation to join in group activities, such as social games and sports.

Present structured opportunities for group interaction within the school day. Use infor-mation gathered from baseline assessments of their profile of abilities. Prepare the pupil for group interaction through visually timetabled information of when and for how long group interaction sessions will take place. Develop visual materials to support their expected involvement and incorporate the involvement of others within the interactions.

Misunderstandings may arise due to the pragmatics of language, interpersonal engagement (they may misinterpret the unspoken meanings within the interaction).

Provide written information (if at their cognitive level) of the rationale for participating in such an activity. This information should attempt to address such issues as difficulties with theory of mind (others perspective) and difficulties with central coherence (getting the social meaning).


A lack of understanding of social interaction skills and missing the social context of situations often leaves the pupil with autism on the periphery and often isolated.

​​Accept that there may be areas of 'blindness' within the social interplay that they not be able to achieve naturally or through adaptations.

The pupil with autism may possess difficulties with a range of emotional management skills. There may be little awareness of internal states such as feelings of anxiety, anger or sadness. Due to the high social demands of school pupils are often experiencing high levels of anxiety or stress. Emotional awareness may not occur until the pupil loses control in an outburst that may appear to others as coming from nowhere. Difficulties processing others perspectives, a lack of awareness of others emotional states and a limited ability to emotionally match others moods are all indicative of a lack of emotional understanding.

Use pupil's interest to aid success within the group activity. This can then be used as a concrete experience and a reference point to encourage further involvement within other less favoured group activities.

Understanding self-awareness may require focused teaching. Specialist approaches to teaching understanding of their own condition may be required. They may develop more awareness of their differences within a mainstream peer group.

Develop a visual emotional understanding programme (there are a range of resources that attempt to support this, see the resource section).

Difficulties building positive self-esteem.

Rigidity of thought and need for sameness may result with difficulties arsing from difficulties with executive functioning.

Teach the associations of feelings with experience. This requires immediate association, therefore, when they show behaviours that indicate a feeling or state, teach this association immediately. Augment this learning by developing concrete visual supports (such as an 'emotions folder').

Difficulties building emotional resilience.

A pupil may possess limited self-awareness and therefore may not be aware of internal feelings or mood states.

Providing the person with autism specific counselling if they reach a state of distress (remember it is essential that the person providing therapeutic counselling is aware of the profile of abilities). Counselling may be useful for more able pupils and should be accessed only of the young person wishes to access this type of therapeutic support.

A 'fragile sense of self' may leave pupils vulnerable to additional mental health difficulties.

Teach others to understand the pupils 'differences' by having awareness-raising sessions (this should only occur if the pupil and their parents have given their consent. Some pupils with Asperger's Syndrome are very private regarding disclosing their condition to others).

Help the person understand their condition and the impact this has. This can be done with specific resources - see 'I am Special' (Vermulen, 2013) or with specialist therapeutic group interventions (Video Interpersonal Self-Reflection Assessment Method ( VIS- RAM, Robinson, 2005).

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