Planning, Organising and Problem-Solving
People with Autism may have difficulty transferring skills learnt in one context to another, so skills often need to be taught in the context in which they are required.
This is related to difficulties with executive functions, a set of neurologically-based skills involving self-regulation. These include planning, organising, sustaining attention, inhibiting responses, working memory, reasoning and problem solving.
Executive functions resemble the conductor of an orchestra; although all the individuals in an orchestra may be skilled, without the conductor helping them work together, they may not sound good as a group. In the same way, a person with Autism may have all the skills required for an activity, but have difficulty pulling all those skills together. Some people may have difficulty monitoring their own behaviour or responses, so appear impulsive, active, or inattentive and/or have difficulty inhibiting their responses. Routines and visual organisers can support people with Autism to identify and work through the steps in an activity with greater independence.
Often, the person’s thinking may be concrete, literal and detail focused, so that he or she may find it difficult to see the bigger picture. As an example, children with Autism may focus on a small ladybird on the corner of each page of a book, rather than the main pictures and the story. People with Autism may have a very uneven profile of skills. That is very good skills in some areas and very poor in others One common important area of strength, however, is the ability to process information, instructions and directions, visually.
Visual processing abilities are often much greater than those of auditory processing. Consequently, the visual presentation of information is a critical tool in intervention and support.