Autistic children take things literally…

So one of the most useful things I gained from my disability module was a better insight into specific disabilities and some character/ behaviour traits that are useful to know so here’s my contribution to your learning! 😜

The first and most important thing to know about ‘Autism’ is that it’s a behavioural spectrum disorder. Often referred to as ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) every single child is somewhere ‘on the spectrum’ and every child is unique. So for example some “high-functioning” children can cope well in mainstream sessions and hold conversations well, while other children on the spectrum may struggle in day-to-day environments and not want to engage verbally.

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A second grade Autistic child’s response to the assignment

Another (illustrated beautifully above) is that some children interpret instructions literally. This is why you should never ask an autistic (or any other) child to “jump” off the trampoline. If the child takes the request literally and jumps down, they really won’t understand an admonishment, as they were simply following your exact instructions. So keep any instructions very clear and easy to understand.

One of the kids I teach “Oli” we’ll call him, often needs instructions in reverse order. So rather than saying “Can you do 10 seat drops in a row for me please Oli” it is easier for him to understand “Oli, seat drop 10 times”. Yes we do lose the “please can you” but to him this is superfluous information that is simply confusing and not something he needs to remember, so leave it out.

One of the things that struck me most about a class of children with similar needs being run was the order, structure and predictability of what was being taught. For example every child knew that the warm up was:

2 tuck
3 straddle
4 pike
5 seat drops
6 tuck
7 straddle
8 pike
9 seat drops and a full twist.

They also knew that “last goes” meant 20 seat drops followed by home time. This routine avoids melt downs, confusion and helps the children learn turn taking and what’s “fair” as well as teary tantrums of “I don’t wanna go!” Admittedly I once made the mistake of asking for 20 seat drops half way through a session, which prompted the child to ask “is it home time already?” Fortunately an explanation sufficed in that situation!

Another thing worth being aware of is many children have sensory sensitivities, such as an inability to cut out sounds – notably background noise, which leads to difficulties concentrating. Other children may like loud noises and find it easier to concentrate while making a loud noise.

Finally, another point to be aware of is that children on the spectrum do not always perceive danger, therefore the rules in a gym need to be clear from the start, and understood, with a close eye on children who aren’t on the trampoline.

So in summary, when coaching – stick to a routine, keep instructions plain and simple and try to avoid information-overload! The best solution to helping a child is ofter to ask the parent or carer, who manage all of the child’s behaviours and may already have several mechanisms to help their child which you too could use to make the most of the time they have with you.

Hope that helps and if you have anything to add, please comment below!
Meantime… keep bouncing! 😉 ~ Bella Bounce

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