Can autistic people be good dancers

Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges associated with learning.


Dance, Drama and Performance and Students with Autism

Students with autistic spectrum disorders can experience a number of difficulties which may affect their study of dance, drama and performance programmes. Possible difficulties and inclusive strategies for overcoming them might include the following:

Communication

While individuals with autistic spectrum disorders may have an excellent vocabulary and sound syntactic knowledge, the performance or communicative aspect of their language may be poor. They may have difficulty knowing when to speak and when to remain silent, what to talk about and with whom, when, where and in what manner. They may have difficulty inferring ideas from what is said, or they may take what is said very literally.

Students with autistic spectrum disorders may be unable to alter register or language style in different language situations – resulting in a very pompous or stilted language style. Their language can appear odd and inappropriate. Sometimes particular phrases will be repeated many times in a stereotyped fashion. In addition, non-verbal communication, both receptive and expressive, is often not well developed. Individuals may often interupt inappropriately and be unable to interpret any cues that such interruptions are unwelcome. They may also appear non-compliant at times, as they often have difficulty taking direction and coping with negative feedback. Students with autistic spectrum disorders may often be perceived as being rude or arrogant – and it is important that academic staff are aware that the student has impaired communication and that any rudeness is unintentional. Tutorial participation may present problems for some students and allowances for these communication difficulties may be necessary.

Social Interaction

Students with autistic spectrum disorders can be loners who never seem to quite fit in. This may be as a result of eccentric behaviour, peculiar ways of speaking and a lack of social skills. However, students with autistic spectrum disorders are generally very keen to develop social relationships but lack the ability to understand and use the rules governing social behaviour.

He or she may attempt to initiate contact inappropriately or react unnecessarily aggressively to a rebuff.

Students may feel rejected but not understand how their own behavioural responses have contributed to their isolation. Over time, some students may withdraw from uncomfortable interactions and become quite isolated (concomitant psychiatric difficulties can occur, e.g. depression, obsessive compulsive disorders).

Some of the more specific difficulties associated with social interaction include:

  • Students may interpret quite literally what is said to them.
  • Difficulties in reading the emotions of others.
  • Problems with social distance.
  • Difficulty understanding unwritten rules and when they do learn them, may then apply them rigidly.
Coping with the Learning Environment

Students with autistic spectrum disorders are often resistant to change and cope best in a structured environment in which any change is predictable. The vastness of universities and the adult learning environment in which students are expected to take responsibility for their own learning is likely to be difficult for such students.

Because these students often have difficulty inferring information, they may find it difficult to take on board the significance of important dates and timetables.

Students may appear rigid and non-compliant and have difficulty taking direction and coping with negative feedback. They may also find it hard to concentrate on a subject matter if it is not one that interests them on a personal level. It is important to remember that many students perceive the world almost exclusively from their own viewpoint and will use language in the literal sense, which can cause difficulties when interpreting language for drama productions.

 

Teaching strategies associated with Autism

These strategies are suggestions for inclusive teaching. This list should not be considered exhaustive and it is important to remember that all students are individuals and what is considered to be good practice for one student may not necessarily be good practice for another. You may also like to contact the Disability Specialist in your institution for further information. If you have any good practice that you would like to add to this list, please email your suggestions to z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk.

  • Provide sufficient time to discuss needs with the student before/during their initial teaching session.

    Students with autistic spectrum disorders are likely to need support and assistance in the areas of: transition and induction, in lectures and tutorials, with organisation, with flexibility (e.g. examination arrangements), technical support, peer support and awareness raising, mentors and social skills development.

    Transition and Induction

    Students may require:

    • Longer periods of induction to the institution and during periods of change such as work placements.
    • Help with orientation such as maps of routes between teaching venues.
    • Help with timetables e.g. written clarification of information such as tutors and rooms.
    Enablers

    In certain situations, students may require personal assistants to help with areas of their study, such as:

    • Providing support during lectures.
    • Providing support with organisational issues.li>
    • Providing support during private study such as library work.
    • Facilitating communication with staff and peers.
    Support in Taught Sessions and Tutorials
    • Reduce potential distractions e.g. light and sounds.
    • Consider seating arrangements and check with students about their individual needs, some students may need to sit with their back to the wall or near to a door.
    • Highlight essential and relevant information e.g. in lecture notes and reading lists.
    • Provide written summaries / bulleted lists of main points e.g. in meetings and discussions.
    • Email communication and written communication.
    • Provide regular breaks for students if necessary.
    Organisational Support
    • Schedules or timetables.
    • To do lists.
    Flexibility

    Flexibility may need to be expressed in terms of:

    • Assignments.
    • Examination arrangements – e.g. time allowed, colour of paper and ink.
    • Rooms.
    • Breaks.
    • Calming techniques that students may need to employ.
    Social Support

    In addition to learning and teaching support, students with autistic spectrum disorders may need additional support. This could be achieved through the assignment of a peer mentor. Mentors can provide social support within the academic setting, but some students may also require additional support to develop social skills in context, e.g. money, shopping, clothes, hygiene, etc. Sources of support need to be indentified in order to ensure that students receive effective social support in all situations.

  • Potential challenges to the achievement of learning

    • Dance, Drama and Performance and Ability to Empathise
    • Dance, Drama and Performance and Anxiety / Stress
    • Dance, Drama and Performance and Auditory Difficulties
    • Dance, Drama and Performance and Information Processing
    • Dance, Drama and Performance and Language / Comprehension Difficulties
    • Dance, Drama and Performance and Memory / Recall Difficulties
    • Dance, Drama and Performance and Mobility Difficulties
    • Dance, Drama and Performance and Motivation
    • Dance, Drama and Performance and Motor / Manual Dexterity Difficulties
    • Dance, Drama and Performance and Organisational Difficulties
    • Dance, Drama and Performance and Speech Difficulties
    • Dance, Drama and Performance and Stamina
    • Dance, Drama and Performance and Visual Difficulties

    Asperger's Syndrome, Autism, Dance, Drama, Performance