April is Autism Awareness month, so we have been talking about it in the office. My experience of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is spread across all stages of education, and my experiences in Early Years has left me wondering if we really are doing everything we can to support children with ASD. Recent research (here is an example) has shown that early intervention with children aged from 18 months can reduce the severity of ASD symptoms and give children much better opportunities. So why then is the average age of diagnosis still around 4-5?
Some symptoms of Autism don’t always show up in young children, because of this it is common for no formal diagnosis to occur until children reach school age, and in many cases even secondary school age. But by then it is often too late to start providing support, and these children have missed out on several years of education adapted to their needs. In Early Years we should be starting to identify these children, support them as best we can even before the diagnosis and give them the best possible outcomes for their future!
So how can we support these children without an official diagnosis, what should we be looking for in our children to identify those that may benefit from support? The National Autistic Society have a fantastic information page here, and list the common behaviours that are exhibited in small children:
Signs of autism in young children
Children with autism exhibit a wide range of behaviours, including:
- difficulty relating to others and making friends.
- difficulty in communicating (some children may not talk at all).
- being unable to engage in imaginative play.
Other signs of autism include:
- a lack of awareness of danger.
- ritualistic play and behaviour.
- inappropriate eye contact.
- hypersensitivity to sound, light.
- spinning objects.
- hand flapping.
If you need more support and ideas on what to do with children that are exhibiting these behaviours then why not come to out Autism course running at the end of the month – we have halved the price for Autism Awareness month! Full details and booking information can be found here.
About the author: Matt Stanford