Education is something that most of us simply take for granted. When our children reach a certain age, they go to kindergarten and subsequently on to regular school and then normally progress for the next dozen or so years, hopefully culminating in attending university. For some though, the path to education is a much more complicated affair, and some find it far more difficult to take in and absorb that which the other kids are learning. Autism, also called autism spectrum disorder, is one of the most common developmental disabilities, where the brain develops and processes information differently, leading to challenges in communication, as well as social and behavioural problems. Some sufferers of autism have only fairly mild conditions, which cause limited problems, while more severe cases can cause major issues with simple everyday tasks. Aside from the learning difficulties, autistic children can find themselves being singled out and bullied, as they are seen as different from everyone else.
Autism affects around one in every one hundred children to some degree, and has been described as effectively locking a child into their own little world, who can often find it very difficult to communicate. A teacher in a normal school environment will expect a certain level of behaviour from their students, which is very demanding for an autistic student, for whom frustration can come very easily and swiftly, resulting in disruptive behaviour. This can be very challenging for the teacher, especially if they do not understand what autism is. All too often autistic children are thought of as just being stupid, though this is not true, as many such children have a very high level of intelligence, but just find it difficult to interact and understand instructions that are considered simple by the majority. A school is quite likely to tell the parents what the child has done wrong, rather than ask the parents if they can suggest practical and positive ways to deal with it.
Recognising the Autistic Child
While autism has no cure, recognising it and intervening early, with the correct therapy and education, can help the child to develop skills and unlock their potential. When we see children playing, what they are doing generally seems perfectly natural, and co-ordinated, albeit in a slightly clumsy way, but if you look a little closer, the autistic child may play with something in a way that looks odd and often involves repetitive motions. They may find it difficult to hold eye contact with others and have problems interacting and playing with other children. We normally expect children to start walking and talking at certain age levels, which can be the first sign that something isn’t quite right, if such milestones are not reached when they should have been. They may also get upset very easily, seem uncaring and unemotional and have problems with speaking, or need significantly longer periods of time to complete tasks and can be distracted very easily.
The School and the Parents
Dealing with the school can be one of the hardest things for the parent of an autistic child to have to cope with. Some teachers have the mindset that the child is simply being disruptive, while the parents who fully understand that their child has challenges, find such perceptions very frustrating. Getting special education, especially with financial assistance can be extremely bureaucratic and involve dozens of meetings and assessments, leaving the child in the meantime, with a teacher he doesn’t understand and who reciprocally doesn’t understand the child. Parents can become frustrated themselves from the process and the daily situation they live with, often leaving them physically and emotionally drained. Major improvements have been made in recent years, though for schools who have not had an autistic child before, things are probably not going to work out well when they do. Without an understanding of autism, the teachers are going to be faced with a situation, where they simply do not have the knowledge to be able to comprehend that even simple things, can make a difference in helping the child.
Specialist Education Centers
While many countries have an integration approach, encouraging children to remain within the mainstream educational system, many schools find the struggle very difficult, with some children needing substantially better and more specialist teaching. Autism centers in Dubai offer a sophisticated, yet simple approach, which has proven to be of significant benefit for many autistic children. An autistic child is an individual exactly the same as everyone else and they have their own personality, with things that they like doing and things that they don’t. Many will have deep enthusiasm for certain things, which once understood can help in understanding their thought processes and motivations. Once regular teachers understand how to motivate the child, they will find it much easier to be able to integrate them into the mainstream activities enjoyed by the other children. The specialist autism center can prove to be the missing link, who can provide an effective level of engagement with the family and the mainstream school. They can ensure that all parties working towards the education of the child have the precise knowledge of the child’s individual needs, and ensure that the channels of communication, especially with the family are effective.
Autism and the Future
Autism is unlikely to disappear overnight, so we are going to continue to see a demand in providing quality education for such children for a very long time to come. The good news is that the subject is gradually being better understood, even within the mainstream schools. It is slowly becoming easier for teachers to access the correct information and training, to enable them to have better knowledge and understanding of autism, though it still remains an individual challenge, given the fact that each autistic child is different in themselves. There are some excellent examples of good practice in some schools already, which is most likely to continue to strengthen.
Not all autistic children will require personal help from a specialist center, but those that do, will find the staff awareness of their issues continuously improving as time goes by, which will be a blessing for the parents and a great assistance to the mainstream schools.