We get frequent inquiries to share strategies and techniques to assist individuals with special needs and autism in breaching the ability gaps in order to lead productive and fulfilling lives.
Autism often relates to special perceptics and may affect the acquisition, organization, retention, understanding or use of verbal or nonverbal information and regular social ques. It is important to distinguish that often issues are related to difference in perception the autistic individual has about their surrounding environment. It has proven that in some forms of autism additional help in skills development can lead adaption of strategies for productive social life. Examples would relate to assistance in developing abilities essential for thinking, reasoning and global intellectual development.
The areas that need to be addressed are one or more processes in perceiving, thinking, remembering, learning and adapting. These include, but are not limited to: language processing, phonological processing, visual spatial processing, processing speed, memory and attention, and executive functions (e.g. planning and decision-making).
Individual special needs or social gaps may range in severity and may interfere with the acquisition and the use of one or more of the following:
- Oral language (e.g., listening, speaking, understanding)
- Reading (e.g., decoding, phonetic knowledge, word recognition, comprehension)
- Written language (e.g., spelling and written expression)
- Mathematics (e.g., computation, problem solving)
To be effective in breaching the gaps in some aspects of autism one may need assistance with difficulties in organizational skills, social perception, social interaction and perspective taking. The way in which special needs are expressed may vary over an individual’s lifetime, depending on the interaction between the demands of the environment and the individual’s strengths and needs.
Various strategies can address unexpected academic under-achievement or achievement that is maintained only by unusually high levels of effort and support. Impairments in learning are due to factors related to perseptics and affect the normal functions in a manner that relates to one or more social or functional processes. The impairments to be addressed are not primarily due to hearing and/or vision problems, social-economic factors, cultural or linguistic differences, lack of motivation, inadequate or insufficient instruction, although these factors may further complicate the challenges faced by individuals with autism. Autism may co-exist with other impairments such as attentional, behavioural or emotional disorders, sensory impairments, or other conditions.
Individuals with autism may demonstrate social problems as the result of their deficits in perceiving or processing visual clues and/or some aspects of language. These may appear as difficulties with social perception, social interaction and perspective taking.
Further the individual may develop emotional difficulties, with or without social problems as the result of frustration and self esteem issues developing secondary to their learning disabilities. Some individuals with average ability who do no not have learning disabilities may demonstrate persistent difficulty learning due to stress, trauma, or other social problems.
Deploying strategies that build on individuals’ strengths while remediating and compensating for areas of difficulties has proven to be very effective. We can apply three main supporting approaches:
- intense direct instruction;
- instruction in learning; and
- adaptation of instructional practices
Some ways to support individuals with autism could include, but are not limited to the following:
- direct remedial, corrective, tutorial or skill-building instruction;
- adapted or supplementary curriculum and materials;
- alternate instructional and/or evaluation strategies, including adjudicated provincial examinations;
- use of equipment, including computer and audiovisual technology;
- social skills training;
- instruction and practice of self advocacy skills; and
- learning strategies instruction.
Individuals with autism can be also considered gifted in areas where she/he possesses demonstrated or potential abilities that give evidence of exceptionally high capability with respect to intellect, creativity, or the skills associated with specific disciplines. They can also demonstrate outstanding abilities in more than one area. However sometimes autistics may demonstrate extraordinary intensity of focus in their particular areas of talent or interest. This preoccupation or focus may impair the daily functioning and seems odd in social setting.
There are some common elements that characterize an individualized strategy appropriate to exploit the gifted areas:
- use different pace, scope, and complexity, in keeping with the nature and extent of the exceptionality;
- provide opportunities for the individual to interact socially and academically with both age peers and peers of similar abilities;
- address both the cognitive and affective domains;
- incorporate adaptations and/or extensions to content, process, product, pacing and learning environment; and
- go beyond the walls of a home or school and into the larger community.