TES has compiled a list of personality traits that are commonly associated with autism which are misrepresenting autistic children in schools.
Autism has connotations with superior intelligence and inferior social skills amongst other stereotypes, leading to misconceptions amongst teachers and schools whose duty it is to accommodate pupils with all sorts of mental disabilities.
Contrary to popular opinion, the autistic community is as ‘diverse as any group’, another TES report reads. The increasing representation of autism on the television and in popular culture has sparked much debate on the issue as it can lead to stereotyping warns the report.
Such television shows as The Big Bang Theory sensationalise autism through the character Sheldon Cooper by exorbitantly emphasising such traits as a photographic memory and high intellect which is leading teachers to expect more of autistic students and treat them differently to other pupils in their class. Indeed one support teacher in Scotland is reported to have been ‘told to study Sheldon to better understand autism’.
The Guardian claims that there are around 700,000 people in the UK on the autistic spectrum but even though it would appear to be such a prevalent issue, it remains widely misunderstood. The spectrum includes high-functioning individuals who could demonstrate high intelligence but it also accounts for those with learning difficulties and low-functioning autistic people who can’t speak.
Whilst the number of autistic children in schools in Wales has increased by more than 50% in the past 5 years according to government figures, and the National Autistic Society (NAS) Cymru claims they intend to ‘make sure the needs of autistic children are always understood’, there has been talk amongst government officials over plans to restrict autism diagnoses.
A report from TES earlier this year states:
“NHS commissioners in South West London are currently considering proposals to reduce the number of children being diagnosed with autism.
“South West London and St George’s Mental Health Trust is in discussion with local clinical commissioning groups about plans to restrict autism diagnosis only to those children who are suffering from an additional mental-health disorder such as depression or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.”
In an interview with TES Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders explains how this stringency will only make the situation worse by putting more pressure on schools.
He said in the interview:
“School and college leaders will feel huge frustration if the professional diagnosis of children’s autism is further restricted. Access to medical support is already too limited.
“There must be a continuing commitment to proper medical support for children who need it, rather than expecting schools to cope in isolation.”
Only last year MPs made promises to help make sure teachers were equipped to deal with the special attention that autistic children require in the classroom but we are now seeing a regression on this. The Independent reported on various creative means by which to reach autistic children who find it hard to concentrate on one thing, like Pokemon Go in the classroom in order to induce divided attention.