What is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a term often used as an umbrella term for Pervasive Developmental Disorders as listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for mental disorders 4th Edition, Text revised (DSM-IV-TR). Autism can be seen as a spectrum on which each individual that has it is somewhere on a continuum including Autistic disorder, PDD-NOS, Asperger’s disorder, Rett’s disorder and Childhood integrative disorder, as seen in the picture on the right.
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability whereby those affected display difficulties in the following 4 areas (by some referred to as the “Quadrant of Autism”).
1. Communication and language difficulties
People with autism often have a language delay or total lack of language. They often lack communicative intent, and those with adequate speech struggle to initiate or sustain a conversation with others.
2. A narrow restricted repertoire of thinking and behaviour
People with autism often have a preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest and find it difficult if there is a change in routine. They like predictability throughout their day as this lessens their anxiety. Stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms are also often prevalent.
3. Difficulties with sensory modulation
Sensory modulation refers to how people use the information provided by all the sensations coming from within the body and from the external environment. People with autism either have hyper sensitive sensory systems or hypo-sensitive.
4. Difficulties in relating to other people
People with autism often do not make eye contact and struggles to develop peer relationships or seeking enjoyment with others. For instance, they do not like participating in simple social play or games and prefer solitary activities.
Although statistics about the prevalence of Autism varies, Autism Western Cape estimates that 1 in 86 children in South Africa under the age of 6 years are affected by it. Autism is 4 times more prevalent in boys than in girls. You are more than welcome to contact us if you suspect that your child might be displaying some of these difficulties.
How does the Boland School for Autism reach these children?
The Boland School for Autism aims to be an autism specific school that offers education based on the needs and special abilities of the individual learner. This means that every learners’ skills are thouroughly assessed by a team of professionals (Occupational Therapist, Educational Pshychologist, Speech Tharapist and Educators) together with the learners’ parents in order to determine every learner’s specific educational goals. This will provide the children with the opportunity to learn and grow within a social environment along with their peers – an environment that respects every child’s uniqueness and promotes learning and development. We are therefore committed to providing specialised education and facilities for our learners, as well as the continual professional training of staff to render the best service possible.
Boland School for Autism addresses the four areas of difficulties in the following ways:
The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) provides the learners a way to communicate and learn language visually. PECS is often a more understandable way to learn language through the use of pictures and symbols. Makaton sign language is used throughout the school day to make verbal instructions more visual and easier to understand.
TEACCH pictured instructions, such as “Look”, “Wait”, “Sit” and “Shh” are used to clarify instructions visually.
Predictability and structure forms a very important component of their day. Each learner has his own individual TEACCH schedule that exhibits the day’s activities.
Transitioning cards and boxes are also used to make the change in routine more predictable and easier for the learners to move from one activity to the next.
Every child follows his own daily sensory “diet”, compiled by the occupational therapist and the parents.
This diet focuses on integrating the child’s different sensory systems, and can include activities such as jumping on a trampoline, using a shaving foam sequence or water play.
Social skills teaching forms part of the daily curriculum, including:
- Greeting each other in morning ring,
- Opportunities for turn-taking and sharing of toys or food
- Promoting social games, i.e. throwing or rolling a ball to each other, chasing each other etc.
Statistics / Facts
- Children with Autism require specialised/individualised schooling and care.
- One out of 88 children in South Africa and 1 out of 68 children worldwide is currently diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum.
- Only 1% of these children end up in an Autism Specific School.
- The diagnoses are increasing by 500% per year.
- There are 4 times more boys/men than girls/women with Autism.
- Autism is independent of race, culture, standard of living.
- The cause of Autism is still widely debated.
- Caring for individuals with autism is very expensive.
Please contact Lizelle Raath (School principal) at 084 610 9005 or firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment if you suspect your child might be on the Autism spectrum.