Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) causes difficulties in the interpretation of non-verbal communication and reading social cues and leads to having a narrow sphere of interests and repetitive behaviours. The detailed analysing the common needs of ASD students was chosen since it is more probable to notice a child with ASD rather than those with visual and hearing impairment or other types of difficulties. The report will look deeper into the most common learning issues of ASD children and recommend the most suitable teaching strategies and Individualised Education Plan (IEP) that would assist in meeting the needs of an ASD student.
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The Description of Learning Needs
First, it is necessary to examine what “autism” or “ASD” means and specify the needs that educators require to meet to make the learning process easier and enjoyable for a student with ASD. One should note that ASD is an issue that affects an individual for life, and it impairs his or her non-verbal and verbal communication, diminishes social interaction, and restricts the range of interests and activities (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). As can be seen, the first difficulty is the understanding of social interactions, verbal and non-verbal communication, and participating in it. Children with ASD might not use or understand gestures and acceptable maintenance of eye contact. It is rather hard for children with autism to maintain back-and-forth conversations, make friends, and get emotionally close to somebody. The second difficulty is connected to behavioural patterns, such as repetitive speech and movements, adherence to routines, and unchangeable habits or schedule.
Nevertheless, the physiological and cognitive characteristics of development mentioned above should not prevent a person from leading a free life without discrimination and oppression by society. It is stated in the article “A few words about person first language that the U.S.” that mentioned by the Bill of Rights Act, disabilities should be perceived as a natural part of the human experience (Snow, 2009). Diversity of life experience shows that people might have special needs in areas such as learning. According to the information found on the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare website (2017), the symptoms of ASD can range on a spectrum from mild to severe. It can include difficulty in social interaction, restricted or repetitive patterns of behaviour, and impaired communication skills.
It is important to note that the educators should foresee that children with ASD can have such special needs as learning how to understand accepted social, behavioural patterns and relationships dynamic, interaction with other peers, use of sensibility to visual stimuli. The requirement to meet these needs is supported by the fact that the rate of students with ASD is high: according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2017), more than 83 per cent of Australians with ASD are under the age of 25. In fact, it is rather difficult to explain the reason for this raise (earlier diagnosis or community recognition of the disorder, for example). In any case, this high rate proves that choosing ASD to analyse is beneficial since it is more likely to see a child with ASD compared to the other special needs.
The Profile of a Hypothetical Child
This report focuses on the case of a six-year-old boy, Oliver, who has a 1st-level of Autistic Spectrum Disorder and recently went to primary school. In other words, the school phase has the potential to introduce new irritants into the patient’s life that may stimulate further progression of the disease. In addition, the situation is complicated by the fact that Oliver is a boy, and according to Haroon (2019), male patients are more likely to develop autism: on average, 2-3 times higher than women. It should be admitted that the symptomatic manifestations of this disorder are very diverse, nevertheless, the most frequent characteristics can be identified among the patient. Thus, children with autism, as a rule, have the inability to establish full social contact with other people, quite limited from the outside world, have a feeble response to external visual and sound stimuli and a stereotypical, narrow range of interests. According to the clinical data provided by Dawson et al. (2005), which describes 1st-level autism disorder, Oliver has severe difficulties in maintaining social interaction with other people. This phenomenon is justified by an inner desire to use repetitive behaviours, and consequently, even during a conversation, the boy tries to keep the subject alive. In fact, while contact with adults or peers, communication takes the form of a monologue. On the contrary, if the repeating patterns are interrupted or unrealistic in these conditions, the development of an aggressive or emotionally depressed mood is highly likely (Pierangelo, & Giuliani, 2012). In school practice, the boy notes that he does not wish to engage in social activities or games but prefers to study astronomy and stars.
Identification of Teaching Strategies. Social Interaction Boosters: Helping Students with ASD to Get on with Others
Playing with Peers
It is true that children with ASD usually show difficulties while socially communicating in a wide range of ways. It can be claimed the core feature of their ASD disorder. Therefore, most children with ASD should get assistance in the acquisition of the confidence necessary for social competence in community contexts, building friendships and interacting with others (at school or home, and in other formal and informal institutions) more naturally. In order to acquire this competence, students with ASD should have a number of opportunities to interact with other peers (Guralnick et al., 2007). In this case, it would be necessary to keep in mind that the behaviour of children with ASD might vary. Some children might actively attempt to engage with peers despite misunderstandings, while others will avoid social interactions on certain or all levels. However, it is essential to recognize that such strategy benefits early school-age children with diagnoses in the context of social and creative interaction.
It should be taken into consideration that the play for children with ASD might involve fewer symbolic activities. Furthermore, it is quite possible to face some resistance and unwillingness to play since the act of playing is observed rather infrequently among students with ASD. It can be explained by the presence of such factors as their lack of necessary skills, engagement in self-stimulatory behaviours, unwillingness to maintain eye contact, missing skills regarding joint attention, sharing, and turn-taking. In order to teach and educate children affected by ASD on the general approaches for communicating and playing, it is mandatory to introduce a wide range of activities in a classroom activity, such as generating visual scripts and offering choices. It is stated that social story intervention can be useful in the promotion of effective individual development (Kuoch & Mirenda, 2003). Therefore, one needs to have a full level of comprehension regarding the playing aspect of autism intervention. The disorder requires tight social interaction with peers in order to properly form the necessary skillset of essential capabilities.
Modelling Appropriate Videos
It is important to admit that modelling videos are one of the most effective strategies to teach the key social skills and the expected behaviours to children having ASD. As it is known, students with ASD are more likely to suffer from the inability to understand other people and develop empathy towards them, comprehend the actions of others (Pierangelo & Giuliani, 2012). They do not know how to behave appropriately in certain social interactions because they do not always get non-verbal signs, the context, and the figurative meanings of expressions of words (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2019). As a result, Oliver and other children with ASD can feel overwhelmed, anxious, or dismissive of other students’ feelings and struggles to build healthy friendships. Therefore, it is necessary to demonstrate positive ways to interact with others to children with ASD.
Giving an opportunity to model behaviour seen in videos, namely the representation of the principal social interactions, can provide children with an insight into what others expect of them in some particular situation. By observing, analysing with a teacher, and repeating, children with ASD can develop their own conversational skills since they will get information about these expectations. Similar to visual Social Stories, film modelling also elevates students’ awareness of the “what, when, who and why” of social interactions (Sansosti et al., 2004, p. 195). Modelling films can help students with ASD to cultivate the general understanding of non-verbal signs and building relationships, which leads to more successful social interactions.
Individual Education Plan
First of all, special attention should be paid to the crucial role of parents. In other words, the participation of parents and professional analysis of their social situation affect the degree of development of the individual plan (Dabkowski, 2006; Nelson, 2015). The essence of this provision lies in the existence of two hypothetical scenarios that can be implemented by parents of a child with ASD. In particular, if parents notice the first signs of disorder in a child in time and correctly accept the fact that their son or daughter is ill, the probability of early medical registration increases. This concerns regular medical examination, which is unlikely to be able to correct the situation fully but will accumulate enough reliable data on behavioural patterns and peculiarities of the child’s development. Specific observations of the doctor may include the study of both the preservation of intellectual abilities of the patient and possible physical limitations.
On the other hand, it is not always feasible for parents to notice in time health disorders in a child either because of insufficient attention or of conscious neglect of a severe illness. It is natural that under such a scenario, the child did not pass any medical commission at early school age, so there is not enough material for the development of an individual programme. This option is the most challenging in terms of the future involvement of the student in school life since neither parents nor education specialists can be aware in advance of the need to develop an education plan.
Depending on the health of the patient, individual educational plans may vary: in particular, the spectrum of all needs, levels of socialization and abilities of the child should be considered in order to create the most appropriate option. More specifically, if a child with a disorder, for example, has problems with arithmetic operations, the school can implement a semi-inclusive program in which the student goes to individual lessons with a tutor. The curriculum model developed, which has been agreed upon by all parties involved, is obligatorily signed by the governing bodies to become an official document.
The development of an individual plan is a process of an integrated approach to the study of internal and external factors that affect the personality of the patient. In particular, in the case of six-year-old Oliver, in order to create a learning plan for him, critical elements must first be identified and assessed, including personal and professional support, educational achievements, among which are in grammar and mathematics, as well as available technical and non-material resources for use. However, another evidence-based practice that has the potential to help children with ASD acquire new skills is watching modelling videos (Bellini & Akullian, 2007). The process of video-based modelling makes a child watch another person, and, in the case of self-modelling approach, a subject watches their own footage. The given step is followed by an active imitation procedure, which is conducted under strict supervision.
It should be taken into account that the preparation and further implementation of an individual educational programme is a multifactorial and complex procedure requiring the participation of responsible parties. In other words, developed learning strategies may be jeopardized if at least one of the parties involved does not perform their duties properly. Only a competent and committed approach on the part of professionals can guarantee the successful involvement of the student in a daily academic practice with a minimum of potential obstacles and barriers (Foreman & Arthur-Kelly, 2014). For the situation with Oliver, at least four active participants can be identified, each covering a specific area of the patient’s life: together, this forms a comprehensive observation and support for the plan. In particular, special attention to Oliver is required from his parents, teachers, school psychologists and social support specialists during his studies. As it can be seen, each of the responsible parties aims to support Oliver within a strictly defined framework: parents help Oliver out of school, the teacher regulates the educational processes in the classroom, the psychologist assesses the boy’s cognitive condition, and the support service responds to problems with learning achievement. Furthermore, the boy’s own influence cannot be excluded either, since his development depends directly on his desires and aspirations.
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The development of the child’s social skills plays an essential role in preparing the plan, since, as noted above, Oliver has problems communicating with peers and adults. This requirement is dictated by the need to follow the established Health and Physical Education guidelines in the Australian Curriculum (“Curriculum, assessment and reporting,” 2012). On the other hand, support for the plan must be based on the personal interests of the student, since the opinion of a child with an ASD cannot be ignored. In particular, Oliver pointed out that he likes to study astronomy and the stars, which can be used to enhance the boy’s creative, social, and academic abilities. Finally, the boy’s behavioural criteria additionally need to be taken into account. That means that information about preschool and school behavioural patterns can be separated from the reports of relevant specialists, which includes both school documents and medical records from the story of medical observation (Tait, 2017). Ultimately, only a comprehensive approach to preparing an education plan and integrated support have the potential to support the patient’s social and physical condition.
In conclusion, this report has identified learning and behavioural characteristics specific to students with autism disorder and examined an example of the involvement of a six-year-old boy, Oliver, in school practice. In order to achieve a positive outcome from the educational practice of children with ASD, two engagement strategies were proposed, including peer-to-peer games and watching simulation videos. Finally, this paper highlighted the importance of an integrated approach by parents, teachers, psychologists, and student support specialists, as well as Oliver, to develop and implement an individual academic plan.
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