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Student Teachers Perceptions of their Competence to meet the needs of pupils with Autistic Spectrum Disorder in mainstream Primary Schools

Download Student teachers’ perceptions of their competence to meet the needs of pupils with Autistic Spectrum Disorder in mainstream primary schools
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  • To ascertain how competent BEd primary students in their respective institutions perceive themselves to be in identifying the characteristics of ASD through the teaching element of the BEd course
  • To establish how well prepared BEd primary students feel they are in addressing the needs of pupils with ASD through the teaching element of the BEd course.
  • To ascertain how much BEd primary student competence in the field of ASD is enhanced as a result of their time spent on school experience.
  • To investigate how BEd primary students could be helped to develop their teaching in the area of ASD whilst on school experience
  • To examine data gathered from the BEd primary students so as to establish whether there are observable differences between students in the two jurisdictions in order to make comparison.


Teaching strategies to help special educational needs

Although these are divided up to link with various diagnosed difficulties, it is likely that many of the strategies will be useful for children with other problems, included those who may not be on the Special Needs Register.
Autistic Spectrum Disorders
Behaviourally Challenged Pupils
Brittle Bones
Cerebral Palsy
Coeliac Disease
Down’s Syndrome
Emotional Behavioural
Hearing Impaired
MLD (Moderate Learning Difficulties)
Muscular Dystophy
Severe and Complex Needs
SLD (Dyslexia)
Speech and Language
Spina Bifida
Tourette’s Syndrome
Visually Impaired

Further Information

Emotional Literacy information and details of useful books to use in class
Linked to http://www.sparechair.com/information/Emotionalliteracy2.htm
and http://www.emotional-literacy.com/emlit.htm
Understanding Differences in Learning

Teaching pupils with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

  • Tell the child what should be done rather than what should not be done, e.g. “Put your book in your schoolbag” – rather than “Don’t put your book under the desk”
  • Give the child an opportunity to explain things from his point of view.
  • Use visual clues to help explain things, e.g. when it is time to get ready for P.E. you could show a picture(s) illustrating this.
  • When giving instructions use simple language and keep them brief.

  • Do not use sarcasm or idiom as the child will not understand it, e.g. “Get your skates on!” is liable to cause confusion.
  • Puppets or teddies can be used to encourage interaction. It might be easier for a child to communicate through them. Action rhymes can encourage eye contact or facial expression.
  • You might also consider using a mirror in a one to one situation experimenting on making facial expressions and discussing what they mean.
  • Children with ASD can become quite anxious and emotional and can thrown ‘tantrums’. This can result in violent behaviour either towards self, others or equipment. It may be physical or verbal. Sometimes a soft play area is helpful if possible, or you could consider using a blanket to help calm child down. Chances of this happening can be reduced by warning him/her well in advance of any changes which are going to occur. Use humour when you see signs of distress to try and difuse the situation. You might consider asking him to walk up and down a corridor or similar to calm him down, with one of a ‘circle of friends’ if appropriate.
  • For pupils who don’t know what level of talking/shouting is appropriate, you could use a volume scale. Draw a scale, like a radio tuner with 0 to 10 on it; 0 being silent and 10 shouting loudly. You can use this to indicate how loud is appropriate at any one time.
  • The use of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) has been found to be beneficial for many children. This is a scientifically validated one-to-one approach where children are taught to respond appropriately to situations. At present N.Ireland does not have any specialised schools which offer this approach although there is one in the Republic of Ireland.
  • Autism in N.Ireland by Mickey Keenan (pdf) Discussion Group for Parents on ABA Some children with an ASD benefit from a very structured approach, e.g. tasks organised into colour-coded baskets which all necessary equipment. Once a task is finished the basket can be removed and the next one started. This helps because many children with an ASD cannot assess when an activity has been completed. TEACCH ( involves the use of visual schedules and work basket systems) a method sometimes recommended. Teachers’ Questions and Answers (pdf) Insights into Working with Pupils on the ASD spectrum Extra Help in School

Further Information

Case Studies
Report of the Task Force on Autism (RoI)
ASD Good Practice Guides 1 & 2
Teachers’ Questions and Answers
Understanding Autism
Social Skills (a US site which may be of interest)
Behavioural Programming for Children with Autism

ICT and Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

Pupils with autism very often have unusual fixations on parts of objects; they focus on objects as though through a tunnel. When using a computer this can mean they are able to focus totally on the screen and to block out all distractions around them.

Using a computer can provide a very secure, comfortable environment for them as they feel less threatened, more in control of their surroundings, less likely to fail and they can choose whether or not to communicate with others.

It is possible to buy software which can help an autistic child with social concepts such as learning to understand facial expressions. http://ccoder.com/GainingFace/

Use the digital camera to help reinforce correct behaviour, e.g. take a photo of the child behaving as you want, for example, putting his/her hand up for attention. Put this in his/her book with a caption such as, “I will remember to put my hand up when I want something”. Read this regularly with the child at the appropriate times.

ASD and ICTpdf

Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

  • Autism is a medical diagnosis. The conditions involves a range of disorders affecting the way a person communicates and relates to people. There can be huge differences in the way it affects individuals and each child will need an individual approach to learning.
  • Usually shows up within first three years of life; some children may appear to be developing normally for the first year or two while in others the signs are present in the first year.
  • Remains with child throughout life but with training most able people can learn to manage the condition and live independently.
  • Autism can occur at all levels of general ability although about a quarter of people with the condition have mild learning difficulties and about half have severe learning difficulties.
  • Sometimes children and teenagers with autism can have serious difficulties sleeping and this can have further detrimental effects on their education. Information can be found at http://www.nas.org.uk/nas/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=367&a=3376
  • Many children with autistic spectrum disorders tend to walk on their toes and this can lead to a need to have an operation to cut the tendons.

What to look out for:

The child seems to have difficulty making sense of the world around him/her and lacks imagination and understanding for others’ feelings, thoughts and needs.  This results in a restriction in their social activities and a tendency towards a narrow, repetitive pattern of activities which take up all of their attention.  The child can become obsessively interested in one subject.  The child may have little use of language and may seem to be ‘in a world of his/her own.’  Activities which require turn-taking are difficult for children with ASD.

Repetitive behaviour can include spinning, rocking and making noises.  Changes in routine can upset and confuse children with an ASD.

Sometimes these children can have extremely high levels of ability in a narrow range of activities but lack of appropriate language or difficulties with planning and organization can mean it is difficult for them to express their understanding.

This condition can occur alongside other conditions, notably ADHD.

Case Studies

Teaching Strategies

People who can help: SENCO/Resource Teacher


Further Information


Autism Tish Balfe, InTouch November 2000 (may be requested from www.into.ie)

SNIP Factsheet

Case Study: Autism

Paul is 4 and has been in P1 for a few months.  He has an older sister in P3.  It is very obvious that while the other children have settled down to school routine Paul is finding it very difficult.  He seems to be quite a bright child but when persuaded to sit with the rest of the class,  will not put his hand up, shouts out and demands the teacher’s attention at all times.  He does not play with other children but will hit them and push them away.  He needs to be first in the line for dinner or P.E. etc.
Image of Active Child

If he doesn’t get the attention he wants or if he is not allowed to be first in line, he will start crying hysterically and scream and kick.  On a few occasions when this happened the young teacher relented and persuaded the others to let Paul go first.  He is well aware of the timing of the day’s events and when it is close to home time Paul will fetch his coat, put it on and regularly run out of the classroom without waiting to be told to go.


Report of the Task Group on Autism – Recommendations on educational provision for children and young people with autism in the North and Republic of Ireland.

Case Study: ADHD

Andrew is thirteen and is in year 9 in high school. He has been diagnosed as having ADHD and has been taking Ritalin for the last eight months. He is in your form class but you also teach him four times a week.  You have just begun the new academic year.

In class you quickly notice that Andrew often goes off-task very quickly and does not finish the work which has been set.  He can make careless mistakes and appears not to be listening when you are giving instructions.  When you ask him to complete any activity which lasts longer than five minutes, he becomes distracted and will often then distract the other pupils around him.  As a result of his lack of attention he rarely remembers the right books for your class and seldom completes his homework.  His school bag and homework diary are a mess. Image of Child getting card



1. What type of ADHD do you think Andrew has from the description above?

2. What could you do to help Andrew learn more effectively in your class and in his other classes?

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