What is Autism?
Autism is classified as an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It is a neuro-developmental disorder that affects the development of the brain in areas of social interaction and communication. Often referred to as the ‘hidden’ disability because people on the autistic spectrum show no significant physical differences - behaviours mark them out as different.
There are three main areas of difficulty for people with autism, sometimes referred to as the ‘triad of impairments': Communication, Social Interaction and Imaginative thought.
IMPACT ON LEARNING SKILLS & DEVELOPMENT
Autism affects ability in the areas of social interaction and speech & language. Students with Autism/ASD:
- May find eye-contact difficult
- Tyically prefer to be solitary and have personal space
- Often have difficulty understanding idioms or figures of speech - everything is taken literally making it difficult for them to follow some oral instructions, or to follow lesson content
- Can have difficult with the perspective of others
- Can have difficulty navigating social interaction
The learning environment is important for those with ASD. Certain sensitivities can impact on learning. The following tips may be useful:
- Provide a study area where the student can have their own personal space with minimum distraction
- Ensure continuity - not too many changes at any one time
- Prepare the student for any change well in advance
- Use a visual task list and timetable
- Keep instructions clear and simple - some Autistic or ASD students will not understand that that general instructions are for him/her unless their name is used
- Make functional job related skills part of the daily routine - setting an alarm clock for example
- Look for hobbies and potential career areas that fall within the individual's preferred areas of interest and skills set i.e. where the same routine can be followed repeatedly, or where detail and perfection are assets
Children on the autistic spectrum may avail of special needs education in the same way as other children with special needs. There are also specific provisions for them.
At Primary Education Level:
Special pre-School Class Units - A small number of special pre-school class units are attached to certain mainstream primary schools for children with ASD.
Home Tuition Scheme - If your child is unable to go to school on a regular basis because of serious medical difficulties, they may be able to access home tuition, which may also be provided if your child has special educational needs and is waiting for a suitable school place.
Home tuition is also used to provide early intervention for pre-school children with autism. The grant aid is for 10 hours home tuition a week for children aged two and a half to three and 20 hours a week for children aged three and over. The funding is not provided if there is a place in school or early education available to your child.
Application is made directly to the Home Tuition Unit of the Department of Education and Skills.
At Secondary Education Level:
A student who has been receiving special education support or resources while in Primary School is eligible for continuation of support at secondary level, once they continue to have a special educational need.
The same general provisions he/she received in primary school apply at Secondary Level. This typically includes specialist teaching from a Learning Support or Special Education Resource teacher (both now referred to as Special Education teachers).
This support is provided based on need, with the number of hours of support determined by the Individual Education Plan (IEP) drawn up in the last year of primary school.
Reasonable Accommodations at the Certificate Examinations (RACE)
The Race scheme aims to assist students who are at a disadvantage due to a disability, by facilitating access to the state certificate examinations. The scheme has been the subject of much discussion and controversy in recent months and is currently undergoing changes.
Details of the revised 2017 scheme of reasonable accommodations will be available here on the State Examinations Commission website soon.
At Third Level Education:
Autistic Spectrum Disorder, including Autism, is one of the disabilities covered under the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) system.
DARE - Disability Access Route to Education - School leavers with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (including Asperger's Syndrome) who are under 23 years old (at 1st January of the application year) can apply for a college place through DARE:
Applicants complete the CAO application by 17.15pm on 1st February. CAO opens for applications on 5th November at 12.00 noon. See www.cao.ie
By 1st March, applicants must answer YES to Question 1 ('Do you wish to be considered for DARE?') on Section A of the Supplementary Information Form (the SIF is a part of your CAO application).
Applicants with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (including Asperger's Syndrome) are required to provide:
Evidence of their disability (Evidence of Disability Form 2016 OR Existing report from a Consultant Psychiatrist OR Psychologist OR Neurologist OR Paediatrician, (No time limit applies to the report) AND
Educational Impact Statement - must be completed by the applicant and your School Principal, Teacher or Guidance Counsellor and returned to the CAO by 17.15pm on 1st April.
|Full details of the DARE screening criteria for applicants with ASD are available here.
Students should always refer to the detailed DARE application criteria and procedures which are outlined here.
|Research findings from AHEAD released in 2015 show that, of the total disabled student population (9,694) at Third Level 2013/14 represented in the research, 360 (3.7%) have Aspergers / Autism. The full report is available here.
Common Educational Supports - a range of common educational supports are in place at Third Level for students with specific learning difficulties. These include:
- Priority registration
- Reader service
- Use of audio-tape to record lectures and tutorials
- Assistive technology
- Materials in alternative formats
- Word-processing facilities
- Photocopying Facilities
- Copies of lecturer's notes and/or overheads
- Time extension on out-of-lecture assignments
- Special Library Arrangements
- Counselling and Medical Services
- Study skills courses
- Examination provisions
These and other supports available are outlined in detail in our 'Third Level Supports' area.
In the Workplace
Many organisations now make public claims to be an "equal opportunities employer". This suggests the existence of an equal opportunities policy (EOP), which is a policy statement adopted by the organisation declaring an intent not to discriminate and, further, to promote equality by taking steps to aid disadvantaged groups. Such employers are in effect promising to avoid discrimination on grounds of sex or marital status, and may also make such a commitment in relation to people with a disability and racial and ethnic minorities.
Impact on Career Choice
Skills for workplace success fall into two main categories: hard skills and and soft skills. Hard skills are job-specific and they vary, depending upon the industry or field in which you want to work. For example, a graphic artist must have the computer skills that go with that job.
Soft skills are the personal characteristics that go with a variety of jobs - they include social skills, problem solving, communication, time management, and organisation. For example, a person who prefers to work alone might find a research job particularly appealing. Explore Career Skills in more detail here.
Individuals with autism / ASD display wide variation within different areas of intelligence. Those who are lower functioning might be more limited and need a career path that leads to supported or supervised employment. Large numbers of people at all points of the autism spectrum are very employable, making exceptionally skilled and dedicated employees.
People with high-functioning autism or ASD are often visual, verbal, or mathematical thinkers:
- Verbal learners love lists and numbers and are often good with facts and foreign languages. Career paths may include: journalism, legal research, accounting, history, statistics, or computer programming.
- Visual thinkers think in pictures. Career paths of interest might include: architecture, engineering, graphic arts, machine maintenance, plumbing and analysts.
- Maths thinkers love maths and music. Good career choices might be in such areas as: physics, music, financial investments, research, and electronics.
Science - The sciences are often a good career choice for people with autism/ASD. Precise attention to detail and strict adherence to routine practices and procedures are critical to many science related fields. While the average person may find these aspects of careers in science difficult to adjust to, structured environments are often where the autistic person is at their very best. From top scientists and researchers to lab technicians or assistants, many on the autism spectrum excel in the world of science.
Technology - A significant number of people with autism are to be found among the most talented and successful computer programmers and software engineers. Working with computers can be an ideal career path, taking advantage of strengths that are geared towards order, complex systems, and mathematics. The working conditions common to IT fields can be well suited to the autistic - employees often work in their own space, with just a computer for company, limiting the need for the social interaction that can be so challenging for individuals with autism.
Media & Information - Journalism can be an area in which autistic individuals may find their niche. The best journalists must be able to report the confirmed facts only, and set aside personal emotions and opinions when covering a story. Gathering such facts in an organised and unbiased manner can be second nature to many with autism.
Manufacturing - The need for repetition is common in autism. Jobs that would seem tedious to others may be quite suitable, even comforting, to an employee with autism. Manufacturing can often be a good fit, especially assembly line work.
Work with animals - where social interaction is a major issue, an autistic person may find working with animals a comfortable area of employment. Sometimes people with ASD who have difficulty interacting with people have no such issues with animals, making fine veterinarians or veterinarian's assistants. Others find their place in the farming industry, tending to the needs of livestock, or working in pet grooming.
Small business and self-employment can also offer greater flexibility and fewer distractions or rules, and the type of work can be customised to individual needs and strengths.
Famous people with Autism /ASD
People who display(ed) established traits of autism include: Andy Kaufman, Andy Warhol, Michelangelo and Charles Darwin. Darryl Hannah, a now famous actress, was diagnosed with autism at a young age. Satoshi Tajiri, the creator of the Pokémon, is also believed to have autism.