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Impact of Autism on Supporting Pupils
IMPACT Responding to the needs of pupils 

Difficulty forming and sustaining relationships due to limited awareness and appreciation for the perspective of others. This may be interpreted by others as a lack of empathy.

An acknowledgment of how significant social interaction skills are in enabling pupils to engage with a range of learning opportunities.

An acceptance that difficulties in this area are a core aspect of autism and that children will benefit from being valued as individuals with a different social perspective.

Time is needed to explore and identify learning opportunities within social situations.

A range of approaches can be adapted to support learning in this area  Additionally natural opportunities for social learning need to be maximised e.g.playground activities, dining hall and community activities.

Predicting and understanding the consequences and the impact of behaviour on others may be problematic. Understanding the social behaviour of pupils with autism can be complex. It is tempting to view the responses and reactions and motivation of pupils from a typical perspective. Whilst behaviour needs to be addressed it is essential that attempts are made to understand the ways in which autism has been a factor and that behaviour can often result from communication difficulties or from prolonged exposure to highly stressful situations. It is important to remember that some pupils with ASD will find even the most basic of social situations anxiety provoking.

Seeing and making connections in a range of contexts may be challenging. Skills learned in one environment may not automatically be replicated in another.

There is a need for continuous assessment across all areas. Assessment will need to take account of environmental and contextual factors. Do not assume because a child demonstrates competence in one setting that this will be generalised to a range of contexts. This means more detailed and comprehensive approaches to assessment may be required to ensure an accurate profile of skills and abilities is being formed.
Focus of attention may be inconsistent and out of step with teachers' expectations.

Visual supports may be needed to enable the pupil to direct their attention appropriately e.g. use of maths window, highlighting sections that need to be read, visual markers for 'start' and 'stop'.

The teacher may need to check that the focus is as expected as it may frustrate pupils to feel that they are carrying out tasks when they find a mismatch of expectations.

Adults may become frustrated by what may appear to be a lack of concentration and focus. In reality most children with autism will be trying hard to process information but may not always be on the right track.

Coping with the unknown or unfamiliar may be stressful and may have a negative impact on behaviour. Plan and prepare for new situations by using strategies such as appropriate visual supports, social stories or by a familiar and trusted adult explaining what will happen. This is especially important if plans need to change. Pupils with autism are less likely to respond negatively to change if it is signalled and explained in a way they can understand.
Choosing and prioritising may be problematic and may be linked to difficulties with predicting outcomes and consequences. Sometimes it may be necessary to limit choices in order to make the decision more manageable for the pupil. This does not need to mean that access to experiences or opportunities are closed off but that pupils with autism may need to learn the consequences of decision making in a more incremental way.
Self and task organisation, planning and working sequentially and systematically may be difficult and idiosyncratic. Strategies which support planning such as using checklists, schedules or colour coded work sheets will support problems with prioritising and working in a systematic way.
Flexibility of thought and behaviour: The ability to cope with change and interpret and act on information in a range of different contexts can be problematic. This may result in a tendency for rigid thinking and processing that manifests in inflexible behaviour patterns and responses.

It is important that such inflexibility is not misinterpreted as belligerent or non compliant behaviour.

Staff need to understand the child's perspective and support them to work through the inflexibility. Pupils will need help to understand that people have different thoughts and feelings to their own.

Pupils need to consider alternative responses to challenging situations in a supportive non-judgemental environment.

Controlling inappropriate impulses and self-control. Pupils may be compelled to engage in a range of behaviours that may be considered impulsive or repetitive. e.g. flicking light switches on and off.

It is important to establish:
•    Is the behaviour a problem?
•    If so who is it a problem for?
•    What purpose or function does the behaviour serve?
•    Why might a pupil respond in this way?
•    What steps can be taken to support them to behave differently?
•    What can you offer to compensate or motivate the child in place of the behaviour?

These are key questions because adults need to be aware that pupils with autism will present a wide range of challenges, it is impossible to tackle everything at once, therefore it is important to establish why behaviour may be viewed as problematic. If you simply attempt to extinguish a particular behaviour, an equally or indeed more inappropriate behaviour may develop.

Reflection on one's own actions, behaviours, experiences and expressions may be limited. This may manifest in an inability to place oneself in an experience or to see the relationship between their actions, outcomes and the responses of others. Strategies that promote self awareness and self reflection are important. This can be reinforced by consistent use of pupil self evaluation tools. Consolidation that focuses, not just on content, but on process, e.g. what did you do, who did you do it with, what occurred, how might it have been done differently. This is a core area of difficulty for pupils on the spectrum, they are likely to need ongoing teaching and support to be able to successfully locate themselves in their own experiences and to be able to reflect on those experiences for future learning or habituation of actions.

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