Your child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has particular ways of thinking and learning. You can focus on these to develop your child’s skills.
Thinking and learning strengths in children with autism spectrum disorder
Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are often described in terms of their difficulties, deficits and challenges. But children with ASD also have many strengths and abilities.
These might be strengths when compared to typically developing children, or individual strengths within your child’s own set of skills.
Once you work out what your child’s strengths and abilities are, you can use them to promote your child’s development.
Did you know that some people with ASD have good musical pitch recognition? They’re good at things like identifying individual notes within chords.
Visual learning and thinking and autism spectrum disorder
Visual thinking can be a strength for children with ASD. They can be good at visual search tasks like finding a triangle within a complex picture, or finding a red S in a set of red Xs and green Ss.
These good visual skills might be because children with ASD tend to focus on details, rather than the whole – for example, specific details in a picture, rather than the whole picture.
Also, children with ASD can be visual learners. This might be because visual information lasts longer and is more concrete than spoken and heard information. This might help children with ASD – who often need longer than typically developing children – to process information and choose what they’re going to say.
Using your child’s visual skills
You might think about how you can present information visually and use your child’s visual skills to help her in other areas. For example:
Note that intervention programs using visual strategies can work well in teaching and supporting children with ASD.
Rule-based thinking and autism spectrum disorder
Children with ASD are often good at understanding and working with rules. You can use this strength to help your child develop new skills.
One way to do this is by making clear rules about what should be done and when. This can help make the ‘hidden’ rules of social interaction and everyday activities more visible, structured and easy for your child to follow. For example:
Positive phrases like ‘When x happens, do this ...’, work better than negative phrases like ‘Don’t …’. You could to talk to other parents or professionals to get ideas about what rules to include.
It’s also a good idea to present rules visually. You could make a ‘rule book’ using pictures and words. Read the ‘rule book’ to your child, and let him look at it whenever he wants.
Rules that use ‘if, then’ statements can help your child understand what’s going on around her, like how other people are feeling. For example, ‘If Farhan is laughing, he might be happy’.
These statements also tie in with your child’s ability to follow clear steps and sequences, so you can use them when you want your child to do something. For example, ‘If you put your shoes on, then you can go outside’. Or you can use a simpler version – for example, ‘Shoes first, then outside’.
Special topics of interest and autism spectrum disorder
Children with ASD can often focus intently and learn a lot about topics they’re especially interested in.
Here are some ideas for promoting your child’s learning and social and communication skills by making the most of his special interests:
Rote memory skills and autism spectrum disorder
Children with ASD are often good at learning by heart (rote memory). Many children with ASD can remember large chunks of information, like conversations from movies, words to a song, number plates and so on.
You can encourage your child to use rote memory for learning useful information, like your phone number and address, the alphabet and times tables.
Try to find your child’s own learning style, interests and motivations. You can use these as tools to help your child learn and develop.