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Commonly, students with ASC demonstrate the following characteristic learning and thinking styles:

  • a relative strength in concrete thinking, for example, labelling shapes rather than describing their characteristics
  • a preference for visually as opposed to orally presented materials, for example, written arithmetic rather than orally presented tasks
  • a relatively slow speed of processing of orally presented materials leading to partial or incomplete understanding of a spoken instruction
  • a relative strength in rote memory, for example, often displaying stronger reading skills through whole word learning than through phonics
  • a strength in understanding visuospatial relationships, for example, puzzles.
  • difficulties in abstract thinking, for example, inferring what a house in a tropical country might be like from knowledge of the climate
  • difficulties in social cognition, for example, understanding what another person might think in a given situation
  • difficulties in communication.  Many people with ASC are reluctant writers; some ASC adults describe struggling to understand why they were expected to write down something they already knew
  • unusual patterns of attention, for example, total absorption in a favourite activity and fleeting attention to something that is not preferred.  The attentional pattern of a person with ASC has been described as being like a spotlight, focussed tightly on one particular area, as contrasted with the ambient lighting of a neurotypical attention pattern

Some implications of these characteristics for the teacher’s practice are listed in the table below:

PLANNING

- Anticipate needing to make use of visual aids in the delivery of any taught component.

- Plan for visual scaffolding around tasks to aid comprehension of what is expected, for example, using sorting, matching and other categorisation tasks.

- Setting appropriately challenging targets for learning.

- Provide instructions in a clear step by step way, using visual as well as auditory instructions.

- Be clear about equipment and methodology involved in any task.

-  Clarify what will constitute completion of the task.

SUBJECT

KNOWLEDGE

- Identify those areas of the curriculum that learners with ASC will find particularly problematic such as estimation, empathy and figurative language.

- Link learning to student’s existing knowledge or area of interest.

CLASSROOM

MANAGEMENT

- Ensure that delivery is sufficiently clear and visual to avoid sensory overload.

- Use individualised approaches for engaging reticent students.

- Provide individualised and meaningful positive feedback for engagement and achievement, for example, choosing time after the completion of a set task.

- Encourage self evaluation of work to support self awareness.

- Make use of individualised strategies to support emotion regulation.

ASSESSMENT

- Within B squared mark components of a particular level that the student will never achieve on account of their core ASC difficulties.

- Ensure that assessment methodology maximises student’s ability to demonstrate skills or knowledge.

- Make use of photographs and video to record achievement that has a transitory existence.

- Be clear about the difference in assessment between skills and understanding, for example, the ability to complete an arithmetic task but not apply it to a practical situation.