Every person on the autism spectrum is unique and their needs will be reflected differently.
Challenges experienced interacting socially and communicating with others are common among students on the spectrum, and will have an impact on every aspect of their lives.
These challenges can lead to levels of stress, anxiety and depression that are much higher than for other students. Up to 72% of students on the autism spectrum have additional mental health needs.
Classrooms are social environments that rely heavily on being able to interact, socialise and communicate with others effectively. This can intensify the stress, anxiety and depression students on the spectrum may experience.
This can present unique challenges for schools and teachers, with students on the spectrum being four times more likely than their peers to require additional learning and social support services.
Research shows the importance of understanding the link between academic learning and social and emotional competence.
A lack of social-emotional competence can lead to not only a decrease in a student’s connection with school, but also academic performance.
This reinforces the notion that social-emotional learning has a critical role to play in learning, as well as in school attendance, classroom behaviour, and academic engagement for all students.
The heavy focus on academic aspects of the curriculum and the demand for data-driven accountability that schools are required to address often result in the focus on social and emotional learning and mental health being overshadowed or pushed to one side.