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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 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
Learning Processes
  • Direct learning vs Indirect learning
  • Examples of indirect learning / development:
    • Theory of Mind
    • Social skills
    • Social cues
    • Non verbal communication
Verbal Communication
  • Accurate interpretation
  • Metaphor / sarcasm / irony
  • Need for accuracy / lack of tautology
  • Echolalia / palilalia / delayed echolalia
  • Delayed processing
  • Expressive vs receptive skills
Non Verbal Communication
  • Prosody
  • Facial expression
  • Body posture
  • Inference
  • Contextual information
Social Skills
  • Recognising the ‘unwritten rules’
  • Assessing situations
  • Reacting appropriately to the PNT social circumstance
  • Adapting social skills to the PNT situation
Theory of Mind
  • Alexithymia
  • Mentalising abilities
  • Empathy
  • Trust
  • Appearance of rudeness
Executive Functioning
  • Planning
  • Impulse control
  • Sequencing
  • Scripting
Central Coherence
  • Identifying the pattern or underlying rules
  • Attention to detail
  • Knowing what is relevant and redundant
  • Recognising the 'big picture'
  • 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
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’

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
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

[email protected]