Valuable information can be gleaned from autistic persons writing about their educational experiences. A common theme arising from such writings is that all too often, behaviors are taken at face value and competence is not presumed. Because the neural circuits connecting the motor system to ideas or intention can be seriously impacted in autism, taking behaviors at face value can result in unnecessary emotional distress, as Matteo described in part one of this series.
Here are some things teachers and others can do to support competence and not get inadvertently sidetracked by interpreting behaviors through a neurotypical presumption.
- Consider that behaviors have meaning, and children with limited spoken language will communicate through their behaviors. It is up to supportive adults to interpret the meanings.
- Look underneath behaviors for what the child may be communicating. For example, what appears to be an aggressive behavior may actually be a stress response (fight or flight) in which the child is communicating distress.
- Work with specialists to support the use of alternative forms of communication.
- Experiment with different forms of verbal and non-verbal rate, rhythm and pacing to support motor coordination, integration and communication.
- Use compassion, and a calming presence to let the child know you care.
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