Schools could be doing more to help students with autism communicate better.

Professor Jacqueline Roberts presenting at a Hong Kong conference.

Professor Jacqueline Roberts presenting at a Hong Kong conference.

“In autism there is a disconnection between the development of language and the development of communication,’’ says Professor Jacqueline Roberts, Director of the Griffith University Autism Centre of Excellence.

“While the implementation of adaptations as to how and what it taught is determined by the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, translation of policy to practice in schools is patchy at best.”

Professor Roberts said this was largely due to failure of school communities to understand autism and what can and should be done to make schools work better for students with autism.

“Communication is so much more than speech. Children with autism may be fluent speakers but still fail to communicate.

“Communication is fundamental to learning so disruption in communication profoundly affects learning. Other characteristics of autism such as sensory processing differences also affect students with autism in school.”

She said many students with autism had poor educational outcomes and high comorbid mental health problems because of their failure to understand school and schools’ failure to understand them.

“To maximise communication at school for students with autism it is important to understand the characteristics of autism which affect communication and to understand what can be done.

“This involves not only students with autism learning the skills they need to participate more successfully in school but also schools learning how adapt to be more autism friendly and support students with autism to reach their often enormous potential.”

Professor Roberts will discuss this topic at the Twilight SeminarInterventions for autism: navigating the maze – presented by the Griffith Institute for Educational Research on Thursday, July 26 from 4.30pm-6pm.

Also presenting:

  • Patricia Howlin — Professor of Clinical Child Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry — Interventions for pre-school children with autism — what works and for whom?
  • Dr Jessica Paynter — Lecturer, School of Applied Psychology – Navigating and Selecting Autism Interventions.