Identifying the needs of individual pupils on the autism spectrum
This unit examines methods for assessing the needs of individuals on the autism spectrum. It looks at the importance of building a profile of a pupil and the various sources of information you can draw on in doing this.
In the unit, you will learn about:
- Processes for building a profile of a pupil’s strengths and weaknesses.
- The SCERTS assessment process.
- Self-assessment by the pupil.
- Pupil involvement in decision-making.
A day or week in the life
Recording a day- or week-long diary can be a good way of understanding a pupil's needs. By taking note of a pupil's responses to planned activities, you can identify crisis points in their timetable and spot moments when they seem confident and engaged.
Select one of the circles to learn more.
- Involving pupils
Observe a pupil carefully during lessons, activities and break time, and monitor their:
- Level of engagement
- Emotional wellbeing
- Learning outcomes
Pay specific attention to how meaningful activities or tasks appear to be for the pupil.« Return
Score activities or sessions out of 10 according to your observations. This score will be a good indication of how enjoyable or stressful the tasks were for the pupil and whether you felt they were valuable.« Return
Compare scoring results to identify which elements of a pupil's activities they responded well to.« Return
Make changes to the schedule according to how each activity was scored. Low scoring sessions can be shortened or removed, whilst high scoring sessions may be lengthened. It may also be useful to implement elements of the high scoring activities into low scoring activities to see if the pupil's engagement with an activity improves.« Return
Changes to a schedule can be distressing for children with autism and a pupil may require repeated exposure to an activity before interest and enjoyment can develop. Short sessions that gradually increase in duration and frequency, coupled with frequent reward activities, can help acclimatise pupils to new tasks.« Return
Pupils should be encouraged to express their own opinions wherever possible. Whilst pupils may struggle to express views or choices, this does not mean they cannot; making informed decisions about their own education and support can often be a stimulating learning experience.« Return
The importance of the pupil's views
To help pupils with autism take some control over their lives, they should be taught strategies to evaluate and report on their:
- Likes and dislikes
- Strengths, interests and difficulties
- Performance on a task and the extent to which they enjoyed the activity
- Short-term needs, for example decisions about what to wear, what to eat, and what to do
- Long-term needs, for example employment or living arrangements
Select one of the six options to find out more about some of the methods for achieving this.
- Encouraging choice
- Respecting choices
- Ask the right questions
- Statements and checklists
- Ratings scale
- Non-verbal pupils and choice boards
Pupils need help to develop their ability to assess how they feel and express choices. Without this, they will depend on staff and parents to choose for them. This inevitably results in the pupil being offered activities or items that they do not want.« Return
Dismissing a pupil's choices can lead to the pupil feeling rejected and powerless. This can occur, for example, if other pupils and staff discount the importance of feelings an autistic pupil attaches to particular activities or objects.« Return
Ask the right questions
Asking a pupil these three questions can help you gauge the effectiveness of an activity or provide insight into the reasons behind challenging behaviour:
- What is the pupil's view of the situation?
- What has been done to help the pupil's understanding of the situation?
- What means and opportunities does the pupil have to express what they have experienced?
Statements and checklists
Using checklists and statements can help you find out more about a pupil's likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. For example:
- A pupil could tick or mark relevant entries on a list of statements starting with 'I like'.
- They could rate themselves against statements such as 'I am a good listener' using true/false or frequency answers like 'never/sometimes/often'.
- Pupils can produce their own checklists, highlighting strengths, aspirations and future plans, using symbols, photos or words.
Drawing 1 in the PDF for this unit provides an example of a ratings scale. This visual tool can enable a pupil to express how they feel they rate on the scale in different subjects and activities, using sticky notes prepared by the adult. Many pupils on the autism spectrum find visual systems such as this to be a logical and accessible approach.« Return
Non-verbal pupils and choice boards
For non-verbal pupils and those who find verbal communication challenging, a visual alternative that does not require speaking can be used.
One such option is a choice board, which:
- Presents all the options with objects, imagery or text, presented randomly rather than in straight lines.
- Allows the pupil to select the item that represents their choice.
When a choice board is first introduced, it should ideally be kept fairly simple, with a limited number of options. This can be expanded upon and become more complex once the process has been established with pupils.« Return
- Checklists of statements
- True/false statements
- Frequency statements with an associated rating
- Checklists of strengths or weaknesses
- 'I would like to' lists can help with future plans
- Rating scales
You can use rating scales like the example below to rate a pupil’s likes and dislikes. Drag and drop the subjects to arrange them from most favourite to least favourite. You can then encourage pupils to perform a similar task using post-it notes.
Involving pupils with autism in wider decision-making
This interactive table runs through the dos and don'ts for getting pupils with autism involved in school councils and other decision-making groups. Select a heading to reveal further details.
1. Be clear
2. Give them enough information
3. Be open-minded
4. Create a safe environment
1. Be unrealistic
2. Rush things
3. Use distracting venues
4. Forget to give feedback