These resources provide a starting point for early childhood and school professionals to learn about ASD. They should form part of a broader approach to meet the needs of children and young people on the autism spectrum.
Consider each resource and it's suitability for the child or young person you're working with.
Whole school organisation
In order to be fully inclusive of all children and young people on the autism spectrum, whatever their interests, abilities or learning and support needs, it is beneficial for schools to adopt a whole school approach to teaching, learning and support.
A whole school approach focuses on the responsibilities of all members of the school community to ensure all children and young people have the opportunity to maximise their learning experience. In turn, children and young people on the autism spectrum need to clearly understand the whole school ethos, expectations, and rules of behaviour.
The physical learning environment can impact significantly on children and young people on the autism spectrum. It is important to reduce as many barriers as possible and to set students up for success in a predictable and calm environment. Careful analysis of individual learning needs is necessary to understand their child's motivation and preferred ways of working. Planned strategies along with places and times for calming breaks may need to be in place support the child in the classroom.
Effective learning approaches
Children and young people on the autism spectrum may need to have the skills for effective learning explicitly taught.
For example, general talks, timetables and work expectations need to be presented in a structured way. Structured approaches benefit all children and young people. There is a critical need to develop a highly individual profile of strengths, interests, skills and abilities as they will have implications for learning. Anxiety may also be an issue as children and young people on the autism spectrum may experience significant social interaction challenges that will need to be addressed before they are ready to learn.
Planning for structured teaching
For students on the autism spectrum structured teaching approaches need to be in place across all areas of the curriculum.
Teacher's recognition of a student's patterns of strengths and abilities, as well as need provide the necessary level of adjustment. Adjustments ensure that the child on the autism spectrum can access the content of the curriculum. Teaching needs to be clear and explicit and tasks broken down into manageable steps with easily understood expectations for successful completion.
Developing social and communications skills
Children and young people on the autism spectrum often do not develop social and communication skills in the same way as their peers.
Teaching social skills to children and young people on the autism spectrum can be one of the most challenging and rewarding tasks that educators undertake. The social skills component of the educational program can play an important role in the functional success of every other goal.
Sensory processing and support
Children and young people on the autism spectrum often experience sensory processing difficulties that may vary in range of intensity and can have a significant impact on learning.
They can have unusual responses to sensory experiences and may be hypo-sensitive (sensory seeking) in certain areas whilst being hyper-sensitive (sensory avoiding) in others. There are strategies that can be put in place to assist the student's readiness for learning. Each student on the autism spectrum has a unique sensory profile which can fluctuate from day to day.
Secondary school factsheets
While the other sections contain information relevant to working with both children and young people on the autism spectrum, the factsheets below are specific to adolescents on the autism spectrum and considerations in the secondary school setting.
Mental health issues affect children and young people and school communities.
There is now a greater understanding that children and young people on the autism spectrum may be at an increased risk of experiencing anxiety and depression. It is important for school communities and families to understand that adolescence may heighten or present new mental health issues for this group of young people.
These issues can have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of children and young people, including their educational, developmental and wellbeing outcomes. To support school communities and families to effectively identify and respond to the mental health needs of children and young people, the Department has partnered with headspace, the National Youth Mental Health Foundation to deliver SAFEMinds: Schools and Families Enhancing Minds.
For further infromation, see: SAFEMinds
As part of the professional learning package offered to school communities through SAFEMinds online learning program, an online tool has been developed to enable schools and families to access local information about the mental health and support services that are most appropriate for the issues that an individual child or young person may have.
For further information and to access the matrix, see:
Victorian System of Care Referral Matrix