In this blog, we will explore the most common difficulties experienced by individuals with autism spectrum disorder and some of the strategies that can be of assistance across home, education and community settings.
How to help with difficulties with language
Individuals with autism spectrum disorder may experience a range of difficulties expressing their needs, wants and feelings and also struggle understanding different aspects of language such as following complex directions and understanding words that have multiple meanings. They may also have an impairment regarding their social language skills where they make irrelevant comments or have a tendency to interrupt others.
There are a number of strategies that can assist individuals that have autism spectrum disorder and language difficulties. The specific teaching of conversational skills can assist where the rules and cues regarding turn-taking in conversation are taught individually as well as when to reply, interrupt or change conversation topic.
Great learning can occur from videotaped conversations to identify both the verbal and nonverbal features of successful conversation. In terms of supporting understanding, it is often helpful to repeat, simplify or write down instructions and check that they have been understood by asking the individual to repeat back what has been asked of them.
Helping children with autism in social interactions
Individuals with autism spectrum disorder may experience difficulty understanding how to interact with others in terms of identifying the emotions of others and interpreting the meaning being conveyed in different conversations. They may need assistance and support to learn about appropriate social distance when communicating with others.
Different strategies can assist the challenge of learning to interact with others such as explicitly teaching the rules of social interaction through social stories, modelling and role-playing. In the school setting, it may be helpful to provide supervision and support at lunch breaks and recess. Visual supports can be utilised to teach how to start, maintain and end play and also supporting the development of different social skills such as flexibility, cooperation and sharing.
Difficulties with concentration and attending on tasks
Individuals with autism spectrum disorder may experience challenges sustaining attention and concentration on a given task. They may be easily distracted and appear disorganised in their thoughts and actions.
It is important to support individuals with autism spectrum disorder who are experiencing difficulties with their concentration by repeating instructions given or breaking down task requirements into manageable smaller parts. Setting time limits for periods of attention to tasks may also be of assistance as well as the use of schedules, calendars and checklists.
Helping children with sensory sensitivities
Individuals with autism spectrum disorder may experience various sensory sensitivities involving sound and touch, taste, light intensity, colours and smells. Sudden, unexpected noises such as a telephone ringing can be frightening as well as environments where there are multiple sounds being heard such as in shopping centres.
It can helpful for carers, teachers and peers to be aware that normal levels of sound and visual input can be perceived by an individual with autism spectrum disorder as too much or too little. Earplugs may be of assistance to help individuals with autism spectrum disorder to avoid some sounds that are particularly annoying or disturbing. Relief may be provided by listening to music to reduce the perceived volume of certain environmental sounds and may help coping with background noise sensitivities.
If you would like more information on how to assist individuals with autism spectrum disorder, please contact Harrison Speech Pathology today. We can help you with your enquiry.
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