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By Sarah Farquhar
How often have you seen a child acting inappropriately in social situations, appearing to ignore what others say, or over-reacting to loud noises?
Children with such behaviours are often thought to be naughty or treated as a ‘problem’. Some early childhood services have policies that allow management to exclude children with disruptive problem behaviour.
The real problem however may lie with our own lack of knowledge and understanding, as there may be a neurological explanation for the child’s behaviour, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
When teachers and childcare staff take time to find out how to identify and support a child with autism, teaching approaches are often brought into question and improved. In turn every child stands to benefit when adults make changes to meet the needs of a child with ASD in the group.
This article provides:
- some ideas on what to do if you think a child might have ASD
- the key signs of ASD,
- practical tips and examples for parents and early childhood teachers on how to meet the needs of a child with ASD,
- and links to further readings and helpful resources
What to do if you want to check or if you suspect a child has ASD
No one child with ASD is the same as another, and that is because ASD shows up differently in individual children, depending on age, personality, family circumstances, intellectual ability, and lots of other factors.
Through observation and interactions with a child you may suspect the child has ASD. Checklists are a good starting point to help you determine this (see the links at the end of this article). There are three developmental areas in which a child with ASD has difficulty. Children who don’t have ASD may have difficulty in one or two of these developmental areas but not all three.
The first developmental area is communication and this covers speaking and speech. For example the child may be delayed in developing speech or talk in strange ways such as using a monotone voice.
The second developmental area is social interaction and this is about being able to read other people’s emotions and body language, being able to understand another person’s point of view, responding to smiles and waves, and joining in play and social opportunities.
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