Autism never affects people in exactly the same way, but most people with an autistic spectrum condition/disorder will have difficulty with communication and how they experience the world around them. Therefore people with autism are highly individual in their needs for support and services.
Some people with autism are able to lead relatively independent lives, while others face additional challenges such as learning difficulties and need support in many areas including communication, education and health.
Early Intervention at Montessori Education for Autism
Early diagnosis and intervention is critical to a child's development and overall life outcomes. Sadly, the average age of diagnosis for autism in the UK is 6.5 years.
Montessori Education for Autism (MEfA) is engaged in Practitioner Research and offers very early intervention for babies and children who are genetically predisposed to autism. Research shows that intensive early intervention through rich language, communication, music, social and physical activities can change the expression of the gene before the hard-wiring of the brain is complete.
Assisting Children with Autism
Each child with autism is different and individually tailored support is needed according each child's interests, strengths and needs.
Non-verbal children will have a preferred method of communication - perhaps a simple form of sign language such as Makaton, or Pecs (picture exchange communications system).
Children with autism often find change difficult; a calm, engaging and ordered environment with clear and simple structures for all activities is supportive, and last minute changes should be avoided.
Visual schedules and/or social stories can support children by providing 'rules' (which they love) for social behaviour and to help them to predict what is going to happen next.
Children with autism have many sensory issues, often sensory overload, including sensitivity to loud noises, bright/flickering lights and these often lead to acute anxiety and stress. Again, a calm, engaging and ordered environment is suitable, but attention must also be given to the acoustics, lighting (no fluorescent lights), flooring material etc of the room.
Anxiety will almost always be actually present or bubbling close beneath the surface; this might be manifest in stimming (self-stimulatory behaviour) such as hand flapping, rocking, swaying, unusual noises or singing. A quiet corner and time to relax helps children to become calm; this is essential before trying to communicate with the child who has become agitated and plenty of patience is required of the supporting adults.
Additional Help and Support
Here at MEfA Montessori we provide a range of services from pregnancy to adulthood, for parents, teachers and interested professionals.
Preschool services: National Autistic Society's Early Bird Programme http://www.autism.org.uk/earlybird
and Portage http://www.portage.org.uk
Parents and carers support: NAS http://www.autism.org.uk/