Autism and What do I do?

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.

It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways. Some people with autism are able to live relatively independent lives but others may have accompanying learning disabilities and need a lifetime of specialist support. People with autism may also experience over- or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours.

 

The three main areas of difficulty which all people with autism share are sometimes known as the 'triad of impairments'. They are:

  • difficulty with social communication
  • difficulty with social interaction
  • difficulty with social imagination

While all people with autism share above three main areas of difficulty, their condition will affect them in very different ways. Some are able to live relatively 'everyday' lives; others will require a lifetime of
specialist support.

A test is necessary for each Autistic child as early as possible to ascertain the level of difficulty. There are different ways these tests are conducted in different countries, however the outcome is similar. The common tests used are:

  • CARS (Childhood Autism Rating Scale), generally popular in USA, Canada and Australia
  • P-Scales (Development Scales) used in United Kingdom

Both of these methods use Child Psychologist to produce a baseline report on the development of communication and motor skills; and the presence of maladaptive behaviours that an autistic child may have.

Once these tests are done and a baseline report is produced, an early intervention programme can be started for the child. This programme sets and Individual Learning Targets to help improve communication and behavioural development issues.

Generally, the child's autism is diagnosed within first 2 years within UK, however, it is a long path (2-7 yrs) to get the right support needed. The teachers and council staff are helpful, but can't strongly recommend what is best for your child due to the legal bindings i.e. parents have the right on child to take decision. This could lead a parent unable to know what to do and in the right time. The support required MUST be provided as early as possible.

Thus I suggest parents do full research on Autism, read books and drive the educational system to make it work for their child. I have wasted 6 years of my son in schools who had no experience of dealing with Autism, even being a teacher myself. Without the right knowledge, I made wrong decisions for
my son.

Recommended Reading: Helping Children with Autism Learn, Author: Bryna Siegel, Ph.D ISBN13: 9780195325065

The suggested strategy to get support in the UK Educational System:

  • Insist the council to remove your child from mainstream school as early as possible, as these schools do not have adequate funding to help your child with autism. (They may have very good Autism trained and
  • experienced teachers.)
  • Ask for Psychoeducational Profile (CARS score) report to be produced. Although CARS is not standard in UK and generally report is produced by school teachers, therapist (Speech and Language, Occupational), but I would recommend asking for profile to be done by senior child spsychologist on the basis of PEP3 drived from TEACCH programme, TEACCH Centre, University of North Carolina.
  • Read as much as possible about Autism and assess your child yourself. Parents input is the foremost to put the assessment into right shoes. Without reading, you would not know what is expected during examination of your child. Begin with reading the above recommended text.
  • Ask for a specialist school which has provisions to cater the Autistic Children. Visit www.autism.org.uk and see if you can ask for a NAS school. Plan school visits and spend time to ask for - teaching methodology and experience they have in Autism.
  • Make sure that within the first 6 months of the specialist school an Individual Learning Programme (IEP) is structured for your child. This will set targets on Autism difficulty areas.
  • When your child starts the school, have a daily diary between school and home; and write every day about what has the day been with the child at home and ask the school to do so.
  • Home schooling - Must adopt strategies suggested by the school and also tell the school about what you think should be adopted. School and home environment are different and the child will respond differently. Example, my son is using speech at home where as at school, he is using Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) only.
  • Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is your child voice. Use it at home and outside. Purchase: Communicate In print 2 ; an inkjet printer, a laminator and have a PC.
  • Always be ready to present your case in writing to council case-worker to alter your child's statement, if you think your child is not getting right support.

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