“I am a teacher in a primary school in the region. A child with a diagnosis of autism came to my class this year, however, his parents categorically refuse to go to a Special School. , as a result, I face, on a daily basis, some issues related to his behavior mainly. “
In previous articles we have discussed the phenomenon of autism. Today we will address more practical issues that apply to the school environment. However, it is important to summarize the theoretical framework of autism.
The term “Autism Spectrum Disorders” refers to a set of diffuse developmental disorders affecting three (3) areas: verbal and nonverbal communication , social interaction and academic performance. However, the above subtypes of autism mentioned are no longer valid and as suggested by the DSM-V, the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder also covers the subcategories of children who were (based on the DSM-IV) diagnosed with autism, Asperger’s or diffuse developmental disorder. otherwise identified, with or without concomitant intellectual disability (ID), with or without language impairment (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
Some of the most common characteristics of many children with ASD are repetitive and stereotyped behaviors, with a particular feature of persistence in repetition and rigid adherence to routine (Semrud-Clikeman, Walkowiak, Wilkinson & Portman, 2010). ). In addition, they have a strong interest in an item, usually unusual for their age or rare (eg washing machines, cars, buses, etc.). Also, children with ASD tend to show interest only in what concerns them and reject anything else. They show relative clumsiness e.g. in sports or other physical activities, and may have difficulty with fine or gross motor exercises (Heward, 2007). Also, in children with ASD there is a reduction in non-verbal behaviors related to social interaction, such as eye contact, facial expressions, posture and gestures. At the same time, however, they use a rich vocabulary, while they start reading from a very young age (hyperlexia) (Winter-Messiers et al., 2007).
Remaining in the field of verbal development, children with ASD show deficits in the areas of semantics, pragmatics and prosody (intensity, stress, fluctuation and rhythm) of their speech and language. They often follow meticulous, strange speech patterns or speak in a formal way and vocabulary more up-to-date than their age (Garnett, Atwood & Peterson, 2008). In terms of cognition, they develop a superior ability to store and tend to accumulate a lot of relevant data and information and therefore show great enthusiasm for itineraries, maps, globes, etc. (Simpson, 2007), which is due to dysfunction of various areas of the brain ( Clarke, Barry, Indraratna, Dupuy, McCarthy, & Selikowitz, 2015).
Finally, children with ASD have some typical traits in their social relationships: they find it particularly difficult to separate their personal space from the space of another, or they cling to a point or object in their familiar space that they do not allow to anyone else. to use. They also suffer from a lack of empathy, that is, they find it difficult to understand and interpret the feelings of others and to others they seem distant or indifferent (Heward, 2007). In addition, they are perfectionists who do not complete a task that they are asked to do if it does not meet their criteria or meet their interests and abilities (Semrud, Clikeman, Walkowiak, Wilkinson & Portman, 2010). ).
Thus, it becomes clear that children with ASD, from the first school age encounter problems in behavior , communication and socialization , presenting difficulties in interacting with other peer groups but also with the adults in their environment (Summ, 2014).
Case study of a 9-year-old student of a general primary school with ASD, with parallel support-co-education by a Special Education teacher. The child could not remain calm in the room, he was very anxious, and he could not interact or communicate with his school environment. The intervention program aimed at the behavior, communication and socialization of the child:
Behavioral Interventions. The visualized program, ie the use of images to facilitate the student with ASD to understand the educational material more easily, contributes significantly to the management of certain undesirable behaviors, as well as in the student’s school course. However, the student remained more calm, did not panic at various tasks, and did not show stress in his daily routine at school, with his school course taking the ascendant. Also, the visualized program contributed significantly to the management of some undesirable behaviors, such as the difficulty of staying in the room, by imitating the behavior, seeing the child pictures of students sitting patiently in their chair until the end of teaching.
Social Interventions. In order for the student to become familiar with other people, and to increase his motivation to participate in various group activities, the teacher standing in front of the student imitated movements and student’s sounds during teaching or play. Thus, the student was mobilized to participate in a process of interaction with the teacher, thus enhancing his social skills.
Communication Interventions. One way for a student to develop communication skills, such as asking for help during a game, was for the teacher to hide his or her material. play, so that the child can request the materials from the teacher. Thus, the student was forced to contact the teacher. Also, the teacher, during the game, gave other materials, so that the student is forced to ask for the right ones, showing his preference.
In summary, the interventions in the school context are extremely important, as they contribute significantly to the smooth and formal development of the child with ASD, facilitating his interaction with other people, as well as the process of his socialization. Thus, the child will be able to develop the feeling of “belonging” , as he will be a member of a group of peers, to present a smooth academic course, as well as to form his social identity. Finally, the application of interventions, already at a young age, contributes significantly to an early intervention, which can bring significant results in the adult life of the person with ASD.
** It is worth noting that the above interventions are indicative and that each case is separate and requires individualized interventions.
By Alexia Stathaki, Psychologist