Studies have shown that individuals with autism are usually hypersensitive to sound and light. This sensitivity can increase their ability to learn, but the downside is they tend to struggle in school. What this means for parents- what should I do?
The “strategies for teaching students with autism based on research” is a blog post that talks about the impact of learning ability in students with autism. The blog post also includes links to other resources such as articles and videos.
Learning occurs when life experiences lead to change, which may lead to the acquisition of new information and abilities. As the brain adapts to new knowledge and feedback, it is usually a fluid process.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects how a person thinks, learns, communicates, and solves problems, causing behavioral, social, and communication impairments. Those with autism are often clever, but they learn in different ways than people who are not on the autistic spectrum.
Learn more about how autism might affect learning abilities in the sections below.
People’s Learning Styles
Learning is not limited to learning knowledge via study or in an academic context, but happens on a daily basis. When behavior is modified and adapted as a result of experiences and contextual factors, this is referred to as learning. The brain may be shaped and changed by external stimuli.
To develop, adapt, grow, and change, old memories are broken down and synthesized into new ones. We often learn via practice and positive and negative reinforcement. When we burn ourselves on a hot stove, for example, we learn not to do it again. Another example is how parental praise may motivate us to continue practicing desirable habits until they become second nature.
While moving between multiple places and situations, learning is best completed on the move. Repetition in diverse circumstances may help information become more fixed.
Between the ages of one and four, the brain develops and learns at a rapid pace. This is when language and motor abilities are rapidly developing. Autism is a neurological illness that causes delays in development, and symptoms often appear during this period of learning and growth.
The Effects of Autism on Learning
Autism is a spectrum condition, meaning that the degree of symptoms varies. Some individuals are high-functioning and need less assistance, while others are more severely handicapped and require daily assistance.
Autism affects learning in a number of ways, and the severity of the condition also has an influence. The following are some of the distinctive symptoms of autism that have a direct impact on learning:
- Focus on a certain area
- Habitual patterns of conduct
- Change apprehension
- Delays in language development
- Nonverbal communication abilities are difficult to master.
- Socializing and social relations are difficult for you.
- Problems with concentration and attention
- Sensory problems
Fixed Focus & Narrow Field
Learning is the ability to process new information and adapt to the world around you. People with autism are often resistant to new environments, transitions, and change, and often become fixated on specific fields or objects of interest. This is called Focus on a certain area. A limited range of interest can mean that someone with autism is an expert on one thing or field but does not learn about others.
Autism can also make a child more apt to pay attention to specific details and therefore miss the bigger picture. This narrow view can impact learning and developing other skills and abilities. Sensory problems can also mean that someone with autism is less likely to explore new things, which is often essential for learning.
Learning may be hampered for someone with autism due to inability to concentrate for long periods of time, distractibility, and difficulty paying attention.
Social, Behavioral, Language, & Communication Delays
Learning for someone with autism is impacted by language delays, social interaction challenges, and communication concerns, since we learn by doing and engaging with others. People with autism may have difficulty establishing eye contact and have issues interpreting emotions and reading body language on a daily basis. This may affect one’s capacity to develop social skills and lead to behavioral problems.
These delays have an effect on how someone with autism receives information and, as a result, on their capacity to learn. Executive functions problems are common in people with autism, and they may cause problems with time management, problem-solving abilities, and organization.
Recognizing Learning Styles in Autistic Children
People normally learn in one of three ways: through seeing, listening, or doing (touching). Autism affects just one of the three learning methods (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic), while neurotypical persons use all three. Knowing your child’s learning type might help you build strategies for increasing learning and focusing on what works best for him or her.
A visual learner, for example, absorbs information best by seeing it; books, photos, and work charts may all help. Verbal signals and communication will work better for an auditory learner. The ideal way for a hands-on, or kinesthetic, learner to perform is to do and work with their hands. Once the learning style has been recognized, a treatment plan may be created to complement it.
Early intervention is critical for helping someone with autism manage symptoms and learn to their full capacity while their brain is still growing and developing. As a person learns, the brain changes and new pathways arise, and treatments may help build new pathways and assist someone with autism learn. The brain isn’t set in stone, and it may be improved with the right learning program.
Interventions to Help Students Learn
Each person’s talents and requirements are taken into account while developing an autism treatment plan. It may encompass a wide range of treatments that can help students learn more effectively, such as:
- Speech and language therapy is a kind of speech and language treatment. A skilled expert will work with you to enhance your speech and language abilities, using both verbal and nonverbal communication methods.
- Occupational therapy is a term used to describe a kind of treatment Occupational therapy uses play to develop skills that are necessary for everyday life functioning and independence.
- Interventions in behavior. Positive reinforcement is used in interventions like applied behavioral analysis (ABA) to assist teach new skills, promote desirable actions, and improve learning.
- Training in social skills. This may involve things like bettering social relations and problem-solving abilities.
Each of these therapies is designed to assist people with autism improve their communication, social abilities, daily living skills, and cognitive abilities, as well as their capacity to learn.
Suggestions for Assisting Children with Autism in Learning
The following are some more ways to help someone with autism learn more effectively:
- Recognize and work with your child’s learning style.
- Take command of the surroundings. Overstimulation, such as bright lights and loud noises, might make learning more challenging for someone with autism.
- Stick to basic words and phrases, since language processing might take longer for someone with autism.
- Keep in mind that persons with autism are literal, so metaphorical language may be difficult for them to grasp.
- Make transitions explicit and offer cautions. Change might cause anxiety in those with autism who prefer a set schedule.
- Punishment is not as effective as positive reinforcement.
Autism affects how people learn in ways that neurotypical people do not. To promote and increase learning, it is critical to acknowledge and accept these differences, working with rather than against them.
What Exactly Is Autism? Autism Speaks is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about
What Exactly Is Learning? A Functional Definition of Learning: Its Nature and Benefits (January 2013). Psychonomic Bulletin and Review is a publication dedicated to the study of the mind.
How Do We Learn the Most Effectively? (Sept. 2014). Today’s Psychology.
Learning and Development in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. (2021). Raising Children’s Network is a non-profit organization dedicated to (Australia).
How to Tell the Difference Between Autism and a Learning Disability (In January of 2020) ADDitude.
Autism and Learning Styles The Autism Research Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to (ARI).
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a term that refers to a group of (In March of 2020). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a U.S. government agency that (CDC).
Brain Functioning and Learning Research (2021). The American Psychological Association (APA) is a professional organization dedicated to (APA).
Autism Spectrum Disorder Treatment and Intervention Services (Updated September 2019) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a U.S. government agency that (CDC).
“The Elemy Learning Studio” is a blog that discusses the impact of autism on learning ability. The article talks about how students with autism can be helped by using behavior strategies. Reference: behavior strategies for students with autism.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does autism affect the ability to learn?
A: Autism can affect a persons ability to learn in many ways, but it is not always easy for people with autism to express themselves and state how they feel. Many individuals experience difficulties expressing emotions and stress that may be due to their condition.
It also affects them socially as they are often anxious or uncomfortable around others. They have difficulty forming relationships and often lack empathy which makes it difficult for them to understand the feelings of others
How does ASD affect learning in the classroom environment?
A: Autism spectrum disorder affects each individual differently. However, it can cause a variety of difficulties within the classroom and at home in social interactions as well as academic skill development.
How can you contribute to the learning and development of an individual with an autistic spectrum condition?
A: The best way to help an individual with a developmental condition is by working on their strengths and helping them live up to their potential. Its important for autistic individuals to focus on the areas where they excel, rather than focusing on weaknesses that cant be fixed
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Janice is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Special Education. She also holds a Master of Science in Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) from Queen’s University, Belfast. She has worked with and case managed children and youth with autism and other intellectual and/or developmental disabilities in home and residential setting since 2013.