As with all young people, pupils with autism are individual learners. For each pupil there will be a highly individual profile that emerges and will have implications for learning. It is important that the profile of a pupil is accurately recorded capturing both the strengths and challenges for the young person to ensure they, and staff have realistic and appropriate expectations.
The best ways to gather information about a young person include:
- observation and/ or discussions with the individual
- discussions with their parents/ carers and other professionals who have worked with them
- past reports and supporting documents.
The profile of the young person can be mixed or "spiked" meaning that there are inconsistencies in performance of skills and abilities across a range of developmental and curricular areas. They may have strengths and abilities in keeping or indeed beyond their developmental age. In some areas, conversely, skills may be far below their developmental age/stage.The pupil may be very inconsistent in the execution of tasks. They may demonstrate competency but then appear to have lost the skill or the motivation to carry out the task therefore autism is central and not peripheral.
It is therefore essential to consider autism in a way that takes account of assets as well as challenges. Knowing where to look and how to use strengths in the profile of pupils on the spectrum is crucial. This does not mean that the needs of individuals should be overlooked but that there should be equal emphasis on the identification of skills, talents and abilities which may be diverse or unusual. It is important to capitalise on these skills to the benefit of the pupil and develop areas of strength.
While it is recognised that each pupil will be different, profiling may provide information on some key factors of in how autism might be reflected in some particular groups eg girls, or young people with English as an Additional Language, and how best to support them.
The profile should contribute to the social and emotional wellbeing of individuals, recognising stressors, stretegies, motivators and use of special interests. It is important that they are accessible, not too wordy, easy to read and understand, and have most relevant and up to date information. A single page document or extract, perhaps from a longer profile which is part of an individualised educational programmes (IEPs) or co-ordinated support plans (CSPs), is perhaps most useful format to share information and enable personalised support. Providing information in this way can ensure the pupil reaches their potential to be a confident, contributing citizen. Many schools have developed their own format and name for these documents.
Profiles should be developed and updated throughout the year and as part of the curriculum.