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Special Needs - Autistic Spectrum Disorder

Autistic pupils have difficulties with producing written work and evidencing progress.

  • Organisation of work is poor

  • Handwriting is never perfect enough and they will rip up written work that does not match up to their high standards

  • Able autistic pupils have brains that work faster than their hand can write so they become frustrated at their inadequacy

  • They interact better with a computer than with a person, because people have emotions and faces which change whereas a computer screen stays the same

  • They like predictability and are reassured by sameness

  • They need structure to the lesson, a clear beginning and a clear end

  • They need a reward system which is immediate

The Austism Unit, Worcestershire says... "My pupils struggle with writing and I am hoping that they will generalise their ability to type so they can evidence their work for all subjects in a way that they find acceptable, as handwriting is so laborious for them. They often have a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder as well as the Autism or Asperger Syndrome (high functioning autism) which means their concentration span is in minutes so typing is a much better way to help them to present work. They can see their finished work is organised, neat, tidy, all the letters are the same size and shape, unlike handwriting and when printed out, teachers can read it and don't put red marks all over it!! Computer skills are a necessary addition to the bank of skills which children need to make progress in a competitive world. It levels the playing field if our autistic pupils have those skills.

Your programme (Englishtype) is very good for autistic pupils for the following reasons:-

  • Each lesson has a defined structure which appeals to autistic children who like to know where to start, how long they have to work for, and when they have finished

  • It is totally predictable as it is the same format every time they go onto it

  • It has an immediate reward system at the completion of each lesson

  • The games are like the computer games all children respond to and therefore worth working towards

  • The colours are bright and attractive but do not flash, jump about or change which would confuse and distract the autistic child from the purpose of the task (other programmes I have considered have little cartoon characters, American voices and flashes of colours and letters). Stimuli need to be restricted or stress levels are raised.

  • It is flexible because the child can work at his own pace, with a different colour for the background if one does not suit them and with sound on or off or low volume as all autistic children have strong or even painful reactions to intensity of sound, light or colour to varying degrees

  • Autistic children need a multi-sensory approach to learning and the kinaesthetic/visual/auditory nature of the programme is of great value to our pupils. They receive information through various channels, which improves learning.

  • Most autistic pupils love computers and so they need no convincing to work on the programme. They relate very well to computers. A monitor has no emotions, no facial expression to interpret and no body language to confuse the autistic person.

  • Autistic people are monotropic so enjoy being in a restricted universe which they can control. They are "tunnelled" and so prefer an environment which stays the same, starting from where the child is and linking child and monitor with no need for a context.

  • Englishtype evidences progress by the WPM score or the percentage score, important to some of the pupils and surprisingly sometimes not, as some prefer the reward system rather than the statistics.

  • By giving autistic individuals power and scope, it helps to develop self-esteem and optimism about their own performance.

Although we have not been able to use the programme exactly as recommended, that is part of the beauty of it, in that it is flexible and adaptable, an essential requisite when working with children on the Autism continuum. We have to adapt it to the individual child, the availability of TAs, the timetable, avoiding over-stimulation or boredom, whether the computers are available, distractions in the classroom etc, and this programme allows us to do that.

Now that the pupils have been working on the programme for several months, they are more confident, more accurate and faster than they were when they first started. They can also word-process work in other lessons more efficiently so that by the time they move from Middle to High School they I hope they will be able to touch type without having to think about it".


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