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About Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorders are categorised by the following characteristics:

1.     Social & Emotional Difficulties

2.     Language & Communication Difficulties

3.     Poor Flexibility of Thought (Imagination)

4.     Repetitive and Stereotyped Patterns of Behaviour


There have been changes to the Diagnostic Criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder.

These changes include:

1.There will now be one single diagnostic term:
Autism Spectrum Disorder
As distinct from the older terms, and separate disorders such as Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder.

2 The individual’s current level of symptom severity will form part of the diagnosis. There will be 3 levels:
Level 1 – Requiring Support
Level 2 – Requiring Substantial Support
Level 3 – Requiring very Substantial Support

3. The “Triad of Impairments have been reduced to 2 domains:
1. Social Communication
2. Restricted interests and repetitive behaviours.
(Social and communication deficits have been merged into a single category to reflect their inter- relatedness.)

Boy Sitting on a Chair

Challenging Behaviours

Many children with ASD display repetitive or stereotypical behaviours.

These can often include; hand flapping, rocking, twirling and flicking.

Changes to routines can cause children to become anxious or to display these repetitive behaviours.

Children and adults can appear compulsive or obsessive in daily activities or routines.

Children with ASD have difficulty with emotions and often can’t express emotions in typically acceptable ways.

Some children may express anger of frustration through tantrums or “meltdowns” or aggressive behaviours.

Tips in Positive Behaviour Management

Reward the positive

Use Reinforcements – They are best when they are: Immediate, Specific, Motivating

Prepare the individual for upcoming change

Allow Downtime

Be Calm

Provide Structure and organisation

Keep Consequences Simple

Be Consistent


Language and communication Difficulties :

Can take the form of:

Difficulty with written and oral expression

Written and oral comprehension

Pragmatic ( E.G, Code – switching, body language, eye contact)

High level language ( Ambiguous and figurative)

Unusual prosody – Voice profiles

Individuals with ASD process information differently and therefore may have difficulties talking and /or communicating.

Individuals can have particular difficulty with understanding non-verbal cues such as gestures, facial expressions, as well as using eye contact.

Complex instructions, jokes, satire and emotional situations can be almost impossible for them to understand.

Some children display Echolalia, which is a speech pattern characterized by the tendency to repeat words or phrases.

Tips for Communicating

Use clear and simple language

Pause – Give time to process what is being said

Give one idea at a time: Break up ideas between sentences

List Events in order: Sequential ordering allows information to be processed easier

Give individuals adequate time to respond to a request, question, direction or instruction

Avoid giving instructions as questions: This can cause confusion, as it can be taken literally

Give specific Choices: Do you want the milk or juice?

Limit Options

Avoid Open Ended Questions

Visual Aides are often useful

The Senses

People with ASD may be over-responsive, under- responsive, or have difficulty discriminating sensory information.

Many Children with ASD display a characteristic referred to as “Sensory Overload”

This is where sounds, smells, tastes, and lights seem more overwhelming to them

This may cause them to become startled at situations that seem normal to us.

This can include events such as being hugged, or not hearing a very loud noise

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