Complete write up re Autistic spectrum conditions. Include in this the difficulties that those with these conditions have and the behaviour they may exhibit. How do you support those with Autism, who else may be involved and how do you ensure effective communication with autistic people. Give actual exampls of your support where possible.
Introductory awareness of autistic spectrum conditions.
Autism is a developmental disability caused by neurological dysfunction. It affects the way a person understands and responds to the world, how they hear, see, feel, sense, perceive and interpret everything around them. This may affect how they eat, sleep, dress, work, spend leisure time etc. They are likely to have repetitive behaviour patterns and restricted repetitive interests. Individuals with an autistic spectrum condition can have difficulties with language and communicating with others and with social interactions and relationships because there is an impairment of 2 way verbal and non verbal communication and impairment of flexible thinking and social imagination.
People with autism can often have accompanying learning difficulties but everyone with the condition shares a difficulty in making sense of the world. Inflexibility and restrictiveness in activities and interests can lead to a person on the autistic spectrum having difficulty relating to others and making friends, an inability to engage in imaginary play, it can lead to ritualistic behaviours , obsessions and fears.
It is important to identify the person’s strengths and weaknesses, to use their strengths and interest and use positive approaches. It may be helpful to use social stories to facilitate social skills and to be structured, consistent and calm. It is important to recognise that each individual on the autistic spectrum has their own individual abilities, needs, strengths, preferences and interests so that a person centered shared means of communication can be identified. Autism is considered to be a spectrum because individuals differ in the expression and severity of their symptoms although underlying similarities are present such as concrete thinking, difficulty generalising, excessive anxiety and strong impluses and maybe difficulty with motor planning, organisation and sequencing. There is generally some impairment of social interaction and of imagination. People on the Autistic spectrum can differ hugely in their abilities from being exceptionally intelligent, far above the norm to having severely impaired intellect, this is why it is called a spectrum.
Other conditions which may be association with ASD are Asperger’s Syndrome and Learning Difficulties. Many individuals with an autistic spectrum condition experience sensory difficulties so they may have a heightened sensory awareness so are not able to function in the same way as someone without the condition. Sensory overload is a common complaint of people with ASD and can lead to an inability to function if the noise is too loud or the light is too bright etc. Behavioural characteristics associated with autistic spectrum conditions are inappropriate eye contact, repetitive movement, stiffened motor control and literal interpretation. Individuals may exhibit such behaviours because they feel ‘safe’ when carrying out the repetitive movement and have a lack of social awareness so make inappropriate eye contact and may be very stiff in themselves because they lack a means of expressing themselves comfortably.
They may also become highly stressed if routine is disrupted or sense are overloaded. If an individual is highly anxious or stressed it would be good to be able to find the stressor such as the noise being too loud or the light too bright and turn it off, it can help communication to mirror the person’s behaviour so if they are rocking, to do the same as a way of entering into communication with them, this can reduce their stress. Knowing the individual is the best way, using a person centered approach so that the response to calming them down is individual to their needs, I work with people with autism and after a while have noticed their triggers and how to calm them down such as taking them out for a walk and making sure that they have space to be on their own. Sometimes it is difficult to find a trigger for a display of anxiety and communication difficulties mean that the person is unable to say what is upsetting them so it is really important to notice what is going on around and what may have changed in the environment that has upset them.
It is also important to have in place structures and routines that match the individual’s wishes and needs as routine is highly important for most people with ASD, they need structure and to know what is happening next. It prevents anxiety and stress. The support network for an individual with ASD includes informal support such as family and friends and the formal support network including carers, psychologists, ASD specialist, Advocates and Speech and Language therapists. It is important to involve families, parents and carers in supporting the individual in a person-centered way because everybody has different needs, wishes and abilities and just because someone is labelled as being on the autistic spectrum the support they require will differ immensely. Support should be consistent with routines adhered to and person-centered approach being taken. This can be achieved through asking myself continuously, what does this person need and want and how best can I support them to be well and happy.
Using this approach and communicating with others about what the person’s stressors are and what they need helps to give the best support possible to the person. In order to contribute towards the learning of an individual with an autistic spectrum condition it is important to let them experience new things but try to avoid stressors as much as possible. Communication is a big part of learning and it helps when I use short direct sentences, simplify the task/ routine and break it down into small steps, talk quietly and calmly being aware of how I use my voice, give clear instructions saying exactly what is required and avoiding overload. It is important to try to gain the person’s attention first. It is important to be aware of the impact of my own verbal and non-verbal communication on an individual with an autistic spectrum condition because they may respond anxiously to certain things such as a loud voice or too much eye contact or standing too close so it is important to notice what is going on both verbally and non verbally.
The environment can affect communication for example if there is a lot of noise in the room the person may not be able to filter out that noise so it will be impossible to expect to get their attention or if they cannot concentrate because the light is too bright but they cannot say so. So it is important to try to identify these things in the environment to aid communication. In order to reduce barriers to communication with an individual it is important to notice anything with may be a stressor and to use a person-centered approach that is unique to that individual, it is important to make the person feel as safe and comfortable as possible so communication can be as good as possible. If the person cannot speak shared communication such as imitation or doing something with the person may help as this is a form of communication too.
I worked with an individual with autism and she enjoyed playing the piano and communicated non verbally that she wanted me to play the piano with her. Communicating through a shared interest can be very rewarding for both people. Visual communication aids are also important, they can be used to show the person’s daily routine and can be used by the individual to show whether they like or dislike something and can be used to indicate when an activity if going to change or end. It can relieve a lot of stress to the individual if they know what their routine is and what’s going to happen next. There are many people who could provide advice about effective communication with an individual and these can be both formal and informal supporters such as family and friends, support workers, speech therapists, psychologists and anyone who knows the individual and can provide insight into their likes, dislikes and the way they prefer to communicate.