How Does Autism Affect Learning?
Autism can affect children in many different ways. That is why experts treat autism as a spectrum rather than a detailed list of symptoms. Depending on where a child falls on the autism spectrum, their ability to learn can be impacted in several ways. Therefore, it's important to understand the needs and capabilities of each individual child on the autism spectrum to provide them the best quality of life possible.
This article will address how autism affects learning and what parents, teachers, and medical workers can do to help children on the autism spectrum.
Non-Verbal Skill Deficits
Forms of Non-verbal communication, such as body language, eye contact, and subtle social cues, are important social skills that most people use to communicate. However, most children on the autism spectrum struggle with this form of communication. For example, such children may find it difficult to express themselves using hand gestures or understand the subtle complexities of another person's body language.
For parents of children on the autism spectrum, it's important to take the time to learn how your child communicates and expresses themselves. Doing so may not be intuitive to someone not on the spectrum, but it can go a long way in helping children on the autism spectrum.
In an academic environment, children who can't pick up on complex non-verbal cues may struggle to keep up with the rest of their peers. That is why teachers must know how to communicate with students on the spectrum to ensure they can have the most fulfilling educational experience.
Lack of Focus
It's not uncommon for all children to lack focus at school. In fact, most children find it hard to concentrate in class. But this is especially true for children on the spectrum. Most children on the autism spectrum also experience ADD and ADHD. One of the greatest challenges an academic professional will have while teaching a child on the spectrum is holding their attention long enough.
The best way to keep the child engaged during a lesson is to learn what interests them and create a learning experience that is both fun and captivating.
For children on the autism spectrum, learning is made even harder due to sensory issues. They can pick up on auditory cues that most people wouldn't even register, meaning that loud noises can distract them. The sensory issues such children face aren't just auditory in nature. Even strange textures and lights can easily upset children on the autism spectrum. Over-stimulation of the senses can be overwhelming and traumatic for children. To hold a child's focus, it's important to ensure that such stimulants do not interfere with the learning experience.
While most people look at the bigger picture, children on the autism spectrum have a unique ability to hone in on specific details that most people would never register. Parents and educationists can help children understand the bigger picture of a particular topic by stringing the minute details into patterns that are easier for their brains to process.
Speech and Language Disorder
Not all children on the autism spectrum experience a speech and language disorder, but disorders can prove incredibly detrimental to a child's ability to learn. In fact, stunted speech development and difficulties learning a language are usually the first sign that a child might be on the spectrum. There are multiple different kinds of speech and language disorders that a child on the spectrum might experience. Most experts recommend having a child properly diagnosed by a speech-language pathologist.
A speech and language disorder can be a difficult roadblock in a child's learning experience. For example, a child might struggle to express certain ideas and opinions, have difficulty communicating in a group, or have trouble understanding metaphors and figures of speech. Such disorders can even make it difficult for children on the autism spectrum to fit in with the rest of their peers and make friends.
Not every child on the spectrum experiences a stunted development, but developmental delays are common in children with autism. There are different kinds of developmental delays that parents, teachers, and medical workers need to be aware of. These include:
Speech and Language Dela
Cognitive Development Delay
Noticing a developmental delay is often the easiest way to diagnose that a child is on the spectrum, as they develop early in their life. A developmental delay can impede a child's ability to learn by compromising their logic, memory, coordination, and ability to act independently. According to experts, the earlier a development delay is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat. In fact, children who receive the proper help and care can even learn to overcome certain developmental delays. Still, of course, this isn't always the case.
Children on the autism spectrum often narrow in on particular interests. They might even excel at certain subjects while struggling to grasp others. Often it might be difficult for a child on the spectrum to understand that other people don't share their interests and feel as intensely about certain goods as they do.
Rather than discouraging a child from exploring their unique interests, parents and teachers are advised to use these interests to connect with children and use them as a starting point to gently nudge a child toward learning other topics. For example, if a child is hyper-fixated on animals, you might have better luck teaching them math by using elephants and monkeys to quantify numbers in an equation.
How To Give Children a Better Future
Research into the autism spectrum is constantly breaking new ground, with new methods of care being developed every day. Unfortunately, children on the autism spectrum can be difficult to communicate and engage with at first. Still, it's the responsibility of parents, teachers, and medical workers to try. Only by developing the necessary tools to communicate with children on the autism spectrum can we offer them the help and care they deserve.