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Learning Styles
We all learn in different ways, some of us like to read, some of us like to listen to a person, and many prefer a more "hands-on" approach.   Often the style we'd prefer depends on what we're learning.

There are several models that describe styles of learning, you can read more about that on Wikipedia.   The model I'm going to look at is called VARK.   The name stands for Visual, Aural, Read/Write and Kinesthetic (hands-on), which it suggests are the four learning styles.   There's a lot more information on this on the VARK website, and you can even fill in a questionnaire to investigate your own learning styles.

As I've mentioned before, we all learn in different ways, but most of us can learn through any of the styles if we have to.   Otherwise every training course would have to be laid on four times to meet the individual needs of all the attendees!

VARK & autism
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People with autism seem to show a strong preference for the Visual and Kinesthetic styles.   That's why we use a lot of visual supports, and I bet you've heard of hand-over hand!   In fact many children with autism really struggle with the other two styles, almost exclusively taking in information via the Visual and Kinesthetic routes.

This makes sense when you think about their difficulties in processing information.   Often they will require additional time to process something verbal or written that we can process instantaneously without even thinking about it.   This can be seconds, minutes, or even longer!

One thing to remember when using the Aural route is that, every time you repeat the information, you reset the processing clock, which is very annoying!   We can demonstrate that by getting someone to ask you to do a maths sum, not too hard but not easy enough you don't have to think about it.   You will pause and start to do the sum in your head.   Now, if they repeat the sum before you've finished working it out, it disrupts your train of thought and you have to start all over again.   They repeat themselves often enough and you start to feel annoyed.   Eventually you may well snap at them and give up trying to work out the answer.

Now apply that to someone with autism processing a verbal question, such as "have you done your homework?".   If that person requires fifteen seconds to process that sentence, they will go quiet while they think.   For a person used to getting instantaneous answers to such a simple question, they may think the child is ignoring them and repeat the question, only louder.   "Come on, have you done your homework!?".   That resets the processing clock, and the child has to start again.   "Oi, stop ignoring me!   Have you done your homework or not?".   Start again.   "Are you listening?   I asked you a question!".   Start again, feeling frustrated. I'm trying to comply but you won't let me!

I don't need to go on, suffice to say the child would probably end up in tears or having a meltdown, which would then be labelled as happening "for no apparent reason".

So we need to think about how much of the way we communicate with children with autism is aural and read/write, and, where it causes problems,  how we can turn some of that into visual and kinesthetic.   This is why this site is called Visual Supports and Beyond, the beyond includes kinesthetic.