The next complex need I will be focusing on, on my topics of social cognition in relations to individuals with complex needs, will be autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Children with ASD has been increasingly occurring within schools, these children are often diagnosed with ASD before they even begin attending school, as onset of ASD occurs within the first years of life. ASD is a disorder which is presented in profound social disconnect, and the cause is rooted within the child’s early brain development. Social disconnect may include; unawareness of surroundings, failure to respond to sights and sounds, limited speech and language skills, difficulty playing with other children and making friends, as well as repetitive or restricted behavior that may be difficult for others to understand.
As I have stressed in my previous blogs, socialization is a huge factor in a child’s future cognitive abilities. Therefore you can see the anti-social tendencies, or the apparent disconnection from one social surroundings, can be very problematic for the cognitive function of individuals with ASD. Looking at an article that specifically looks at joint attention (information-processing) in individuals with ASD. Numerous studies indicate that there are behavioral impairments in joint attention, which causes the inability to socially coordinate their attention with others and this is extremely important for social learning. Without the capacity for joint attention, success in many educational contexts would be difficult. In a class room setting, for example, there can be rapid-fire exchanges of shared attention in social interactions between the students, or the teacher and the student, without joint attention social cognition is greatly impaired.
However, these impairments may vary in levels of severity as autism is on a spectrum there wavers in deficits and abilities as well as a variation in the magnitude of effects on these deficits and abilities, all depending on whether they are high or low functioning. My mother, who is an educational assistant (EA) had the pleasure of working with two boys on opposite ends of the autism spectrum, who coincidentally were brothers. Austin was very high functioning, almost to the point where an EA was unneeded. Ethan however, was very low functioning, to the extent that he was non-verbal and his cognitive abilities were realty stunted. Individuals with ASD are very unique in their abilities and deficits, and therefore should be individually assessed and then a proper program plan should be developed and should cater to that specific individual. Simply providing an EA to a student with ASD is not enough, there is no quick or easy solution to mediate or guide a child with ASD in order to optimize their learning capabilities. In order to do so, intervention to better their social cognitive abilities should be done on a case-to-case basis.
Mundy P., Sullivan L., Mastereorge A. M. (2009). A parallel and distributed-processing model of joint attention, social cognition and autism. Autism Research, 2, 2-21
Baron-Cohen S., Leslie A. M., Frith U. (1985). Does the autistic child have a “theory of mind”? Cognition, 21(1). 37-46
Happe F. & Frith U. (2006). The Weak Coherence Account: Detail-focused Cognitive Style in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36(1). 5-24
Autism Reading Room (2017). Autism: A Disorder of Social Disconnect. Retrieved form http://readingroom.mindspec.org/?page_id=6203&gclid=COL82-ef7dICFQ-dfgod5xkHYw