Importance of flexibility

A key aspect of the diagnosis of autism is the presence of restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behaviour.

These are often manifested by preoccupations with restricted interests and activities, inflexible routines or stereotyped motor mannerisms, as well as the preoccupations with parts of objects (DSM-5).

It is important to note that these behaviours however, are not entirely restricted to autism, but they are largely found with high prevalence in this population (Lewis and Bodfish, 1998).

Behavioural inflexibility has taken to reflect problems with shifting attention and with some, but not all, aspects of executive functioning which is a key theory regarding the central differences in autism.

Children and young people with autism require flexible support services to meet their needs.

How can this be achieved within school environment?

  1. It is important to explore and recognise the impact of learning styles and uneven cognitive profiles on the child and young person’s educational progress in schools.
  2. Developing and implementing strategies for understanding and assessing those with autism is important.
  3. Listening to the child and young person with autism is therefore essential in building capacity within the wider school environment. Where necessary, this can be achieved by using structured and unstructured strategies to support students in reflecting on and prioritising their goals to help them increase motivation, self-advocacy.
  4. Remember to consider the child and young person with autism who ‘school refuse’ or are at risk of refusing to attend school, it is important to listen to that child or young person to identify the underlying reasons for his or her behaviour and identify individual solutions which instills him or her with confidence to seek help, to self-regulate his or her anxieties
  5. Addressing and monitoring anxiety across the child and young person’s day-to-day is important
  6. Working collaboratively with parents to create solutions helps to establish empowerment, confidence, and trust.
  7. Recognising girls as another subgroup of autism is also paramount as they can often present differently” masking” their identity that of their male peers. Observing their behaviours for example, do they sit at the back of the class, appear shy, withdrawn, well behaved, do they appear socially able but tend to have friendships with only one female peers or do they tend to spend more time with male peers than that of female peers. Adapting interventions to support girls in school is important as it has increasingly become recognised that many girls maybe flying under the radar.