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  • Visual schedules (available to download here) can help structure the session, promote independence and can help a person cope with change. A visual schedule shows the individual what to do on arrival, finding a seat, praying, etc. Giving warnings for transitions e.g. “5 minutes of free time left, then singing”. Use of timers (sand timers, Time Timer, digital countdown) can also help with transitions.

  • Find out how the person communicates e.g. motoric (leading by hand or bringing objects); use of symbols or PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System); verbal; BSL or Makaton.

  • Check the child is listening and you have their attention. Say the person’s name before giving an instruction.

  • People with autism tend to take a little longer to process verbal information. To help, it is recommended that the ’10 second rule’ is applied – wait for 10 seconds before repeating the initial question or instruction to allow time for processing.

  • Tell the individual what to do instead of what not to do. For example “stop hitting” is quite unclear as the child may not know how to rectify the situation, try “hands down”. Or instead of saying “don’t run” – try “walk.”Use words that are concrete that cannot be misinterpreted. Do not use lots of metaphors or ambiguous language. These can cause difficulty for a person with autism due to a literal understanding of words.

  • In church settings there can be lots of unclear phrases or imagery, so try to support understanding by explaining. For example “set my heart on fire” may be interpreted literally by some, so explain what that phrase means, maybe “Help me to worship Jesus with passion and enthusiasm”?

  • Think visual e.g. use visuals to support what you say. This could be a gesture (e.g. thumbs up when you say “good work”); use of object (e.g. holding up a cup when asking if they want a drink?); or referring to a drawing / visual aid (e.g. line up on the red line whilst pointing to it). Could you write down questions for youth group and give these out instead of asking verbal questions? When we present information verbally, it is there for a short time, but when information is presented visually it does not change and the individual can refer back to it.

  • You don’t need to be an artist to present information visually – have post-its in your pocket and a pen! Stick men and key words will do!

  • Be understanding if a person with ASD offends others without realising it. A difficulty with social understanding might mean they don’t realise they have caused offence and are unable to interpret quickly the emotions of an upset peer.

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