Learning material around Scenario Three
1. Promoting effective communication in the classroom and dealing with group dynamics
One of the main difficulties of
autism is the complications they experience in communication. Most of the
adolescents show difficulties both in expressing themselves verbally as in
understanding how others communicate and how to interact in social situations.
It is not always that they do not want to communicate, but they just do not
know how to do it and maybe over-communicate to compensate.
Adolescents with autistic spectrum
disorder may have difficulties in understanding emotions, jokes, sarcasm,
metaphors because they take language literally and are not always able to use
symbols. They use superficial speech and have disturbances in the use of deep
speech. It will take them more time to understand and to process information
and this can give rise to anxiety and misunderstanding. It will be hard for
them to interact and maintain relationships with peers or with their teacher.
They will not initiate or engage easily in conversation and may fail to express
themselves verbally. On the other hand, it is possible for some of them to
insist in communicating in their own way, without empathy or the ability to
understand the impact of their way of communication.
They are more prone towards feelings
of anxiety, obsessional mechanisms of behavior and the use of perseveration,
both in language as well as in behavior. Often they do not show a desire to
communicate states of mind and information to other people. They have a
heightened intolerance towards changes and separation. They use obsessional
defenses against anxiety, which may dismantle their perceptual apparatus.
The main characteristics of autistic
spectrum disorder are social skills impairment, lack of behavioral and thinking
flexibility, restricted interests, but they also show lack of empathy, poor
non-verbal communication and a bizarre way of speaking. Adolescents with
autistic spectrum disorder are susceptible to the influence of a group of peers
and sensitive to changes in the group structure. Their social interactions are
shallow because it is hard for them to accurately empathize with another
In working in a group setting with
these adolescents we have to keep in mind the characteristics of group
dynamics, like unspoken rules and norms, group coherence, inter-member
relations, features of group identity, values, communication patterns,
conflicts and problem solving. It is important to use group-healing factors
like hope, feeling that “I’m not alone”, sharing information, altruism, and
development of socializing techniques, behavior modelling, interpersonal
learning, group consistency and group conscience. They may take different group
roles: leader, observer, aggressor, disrupter, clown, scapegoat, yes-man or
outsider. Therefore, every special educator working in groups has to study the
different group dynamics and to deal with them. Besides learning social skills,
the adolescents working in a group setting can also receive social support,
find an accepting peer group and work on their self-identity.