Part three in our four part Autism Diary series
May 23rd – Year 5
Parents have fought for referral for an assessment for H.V. this year, the result of which is a diagnosis of autistic spectrum condition. Despite a year of placing H.V. in two booster groups for literacy and maths, H.V.’s progress has been irregular over the past term. He has made some gains in reading, yet struggles with decoding longer and unfamiliar words which his peers have no problem with. H.V. continues to read with very little inflection and intonation in his voice and the comprehension of what he reads can be very literal.
Maths seems to present a particularly spiky profile. He is getting a grasp on time with the 24 hour clock and knows when by this when it is morning, afternoon and evening. He can count to and add up to ten from counting out concrete materials, yet cannot seem to do the same successfully with subtraction.
Socially H.V.’s sharing and turn taking still cause problems. He seems very poor at picking up on cues and interactions. He can sometimes insist on taking a turn when another has begun to start contributing. If I give him an instruction and I ask if he understands he sometimes does the opposite or goes off at a tangent. Parents have had speech and language therapy involved in the past and the recent diagnosis of autism seems to account for some aspects, although I wonder if some of these issues could equally be down to other things too? Need to find out more.
Children and young people with autism can have learning profiles that are irregular, as with H.V.’s progress in literacy and maths. This does not mean that there are no other conditions such as dyscalculia present, so trying strategies for this may help. With language and communication, taking the meaning of what they read or hear in a literal way is a part of an impairment in the area of social communication. H.V.’s teacher could help with his understanding of instructions by breaking each part of the instruction into single steps. Directly teaching and practising social language, such as figures of speech may help with awareness of the social use of language. Setting up a set order for turn taking could help H.V. anticipate when his turn is going to be. This structure can reduce anxiety as well as the insistence on taking a turn at inappropriate times.
Alastair Fielden is our Education Consultant with over 20 years experience in SEND Education and assistive technologies.