A 2017 study from Queen’s University Belfast found that autism awareness was higher amongst teenagers (80%) than for younger children (50%). Encouragingly, those that knew someone with autism generally reported positive and supportive attitudes.
Though encouraging, the results from this study only draw upon a small sample of children, and of course the work to increase children’s awareness of autism never stops. This also applies to other developmental and learning disabilities – understanding is the key to a more inclusive environment within and beyond the classroom. As we mark Learning Disability Week, we should take a moment to reflect on how we can help with this.
Helping younger children to understand the concept of a developmental disability like autism may seem like a challenge, but this needn’t be the case. With the RainbowSmart app, children can engage with countless storybooks on topics as varied as visiting the dentist, or even losing a beloved pet. One storybook entitled ‘Why Does Purple Play Differently?’ looks at how children can begin to understand autism.
The story begins in the school bathroom, with the Rainbow Drops lining up to wash their hands. When the Green drop is drying his hands, Purple becomes overstimulated due to the loud noise of the hand dryer. She runs to hide under the desk to the confusion of her classmates. At playtime, Purple plays on her own, holding onto her special red ball, which again confuses her classmates. They wonder why Purple does not want to play with them. After playtime, their teacher explains the autistic spectrum in a manner that younger children can easily comprehend.
In the same way one child may need glasses or a hearing aid, allowing children to understand that autistic children also require assistance is crucial in the creation of an inclusive classroom environment. In Purple’s case, she needs lots of time in the sensory area. She also needs additional care and attention to allow her to feel confident to join in more.
Each case of autism will undoubtedly be different, but providing this foundational understanding is a huge first step in the right direction. To watch ‘Why Does Purple Play Differently?’ head to the RainbowSmart Linktree to download the app today.