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Autism and Behaviour. Luke Beardon. Autism and Behaviour. Behaviour always makes sense Why wouldn't you? Challenging behaviour challenges others - not the person with autism Is it really that bad?. Possible Causes. It's fun Form of communication Frustration

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Autism and Behaviour

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Autism and behaviour

Autism and Behaviour

Luke Beardon

Autism and behaviour1

Autism and Behaviour

  • Behaviour always makes sense

  • Why wouldn't you?

  • Challenging behaviour challenges others - not the person with autism

  • Is it really that bad?

Possible causes

Possible Causes

  • It's fun

  • Form of communication

  • Frustration

  • Lack of control / no perceived alternative

  • Lack of global stability

  • Sensory

Autism and dysphoria

Autism and Dysphoria

  • High levels of anxiety – as norm

  • Increased anxiety states for specific reasons

  • Global levels of high anxiety due to environmental factors

  • Possible as high as 90% of individuals have a recognisable anxiety disorder

Secondary psychiatric disorders

Secondary Psychiatric Disorders

  • Not a primary mental illness

  • Result of environmental factors

  • High level in people with Autism compared to peer groups

  • Better support should lead to a better prognosis and reduction in secondary conditions

Autism and behaviour

Learning Processes

  • Direct learning vs Indirect learning

  • Examples of indirect learning / development:

    • Theory of Mind

    • Social skills

    • Social cues

    • Non verbal communication

Autism and behaviour

Verbal Communication

  • Accurate interpretation

  • Metaphor / sarcasm / irony

  • Need for accuracy / lack of tautology

  • Echolalia / palilalia / delayed echolalia

  • Delayed processing

  • Expressive vs receptive skills

Autism and behaviour

Non Verbal Communication

  • Prosody

  • Facial expression

  • Body posture

  • Inference

  • Contextual information

Autism and behaviour

Social Skills

  • Recognising the ‘unwritten rules’

  • Assessing situations

  • Reacting appropriately to the PNT social circumstance

  • Adapting social skills to the PNT situation

Autism and behaviour

Theory of Mind

  • Alexithymia

  • Mentalising abilities

  • Empathy

  • Trust

  • Appearance of rudeness

Autism and behaviour

Executive Functioning

  • Planning

  • Impulse control

  • Sequencing

  • Scripting

Autism and behaviour

Central Coherence

  • Identifying the pattern or underlying rules

  • Attention to detail

  • Knowing what is relevant and redundant

  • Recognising the 'big picture'

Autism and behaviour


  • Can be socially inappropriate

  • Need boundaries around obsessive behaviour

  • Must recognise that obsessive behaviours can be used as coping mechanisms

  • Obsessions may be misinterpreted

Sensory differences

Sensory Differences

  • Neuro-physiological differences in filtering processes

  • Can have major impact on behaviour

  • Environmental aspects can influence

Autism and behaviour

Hypothesis - resistance to change

Individuals with Autism have significantly lower ‘stability rates’ in their day to day lives than the neurotypical

This may lead, in part, to an explanation of

‘resistance to change’

Autism and behaviour

  • Dependent on:

    • Communication

    • Understanding other people

    • Social awareness

    • Predictability

    • Fulfilled expectations

    • Shared sensory environment




  • Individuals with Autism are highly vulnerable:

    • don't 'fit in'

    • will not necessarily follow traditional social convention (fashion, etc.)

    • problems with adhering to social rules within society (classroom, playtime, employment, social arenas, etc.)

    • communication problems

    • poor PNT ToM

Autism and behaviour

Ethics, Morality, and Normalisation

It is essential that individuals with Autism are treated with respect for their way of thinking and behaving, and that ‘normal’ value bases are not enforced upon them



Dr Luke Beardon

Senior lecturer in Autism

The Autism Centre

Sheffield Hallam University

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