People learn and feel their best when we are happy, relaxed and feel safe. To achieve this, both the individuals and institutions must mutually understand, respect and accommodate each others experiences, beliefs, values, goals and cultures.
Autistic people are stated to find it difficult to understand that others have different thoughts and feelings than them, yet I often find that non-autistic people can also find this very challenging. For the best outcomes for students, all involved must understand each others perspectives, expectations and needs.
Many autistic individuals experience high rates of exclusion from education and employment. This can have significant negative impacts on their current and future mental and physical health, income, consumer options, social status, housing, relationships and life expectancy. If a student is supported well now, they can start to build the knowledge, skills and an identity that can lead feeling more fulfilled, meaningful and connected.
If you tell someone that they can expand their ability; they will tell themselves the same. My hope is that educators and family’s attitudes, will the seed of each students inner voice that says, ‘yes I can! I am curious, resilient, worthwhile, competent and confident. It is safe to try, retry and learn. I can do it, I have and I will!’
Possible Autistic Students Challenges at School
Possible challenges that autistic students face in school can come from a lack of understanding and support from other students, parents, teachers, principles and government departments. The rapidly rising number of autistic students in schools has made it very difficult for all these parties to promptly respond and create considerate and informed policies and programs.
Here the student and carers become the problem, and can be treated as an additional burden to an already stretched system.
Possible student challenges could be:
- Social isolation due to maladaptive, few or no friendships.
- Social isolation causing a negative identity formation, inducing depression and anxiety.
- Go along with peer decisions or defer to friends just to be accepted.
- Bullying, teasing and or aggression from other students, parents or teachers.
- Not being able to predict or manage expectations, tasks or transitions.
- Feeling anxious, angry or confused with new or changes to routine.
- Having difficulties being flexible with friends and teachers topics, play or learning plans.
- Coping with a new teacher, classroom or changes to a classroom.
- Looking at new ways of solving problems.
- Managing strong feelings or reactions.
- Accepting different view points and/or negotiating with others.
- Have the need to be seen to be right to counter low self esteem.
- Teaching styles and practices that they do not understand or accommodating different learning styles and information processing. Resulting in decreased academic outcomes and increased frustration or anxiety for a child wanting to learn and engage.
- Teachers that do not understand the student’s traits, so don’t create a positive teaching relationships.
- Excessive anxiety and stress due to lack of accommodations for need for routine, predictability and transition support
- Carers face social isolation and excessive stress due to their children’s difficulties, and a lack of community understanding of the challenges in having autistic students properly included at schools. This stress then may impact how a student will experience their autism and their perception of how they belong to the world as a whole.
Autistic Students Strengths at School
Autistic people, as with anyone; offer unique value, enjoyment and contributions. They may surprise and inspire through their different perspective, and be a source of warmth, enthusiasm and positivity. They are ace!
Any unexpected student behaviour generally has a reason, so take the time to ask, identify and understand the cause. Autistic students are great to have around due to us often being:
- Loyal and warm to friends and teacher.
- Offbeat and/or playful humour.
- Authentically earnest and committed to truth and honesty.
- Guided by a strong awareness of justice and fairness, and will advocate to themselves and others.
- Motivated to connect and get along.
- Thoughtful, caring and honest.
- Dislike gossip or manipulative behaviour.
- Visual thinkers and are often creative and musical.
- Able to find unexpected patterns in topics or create interesting tangential topic connections.
- Finds and shares great joy and motivation from their special interests.
- May have a detailed memory and know a lot about many different topics.
- Likes knowing and following expectation and rules, being a positive influence by doing the right thing.
- They will flourish from care, kindness and time; making them rewarding to teach and see grow.
- Able to show you a side of life or a topic that you have never considered, and offer you a greater diversity of experiences.
- Offer new ways to teach and present a curriculum.
Work with our strengths and offer individualised inclusions that provide autistic students the opportunity to feel competent and confident in themselves, so they can see and be their authentic wonderful selves.
Best & bless,