Special needs supply teachers should make sure they give their pupils one, rather than several, tasks to focus on in the classroom, the findings of new research suggest.
While it has long been acknowledged that youngsters with any degree of autism struggle to concentrate for prolonged periods of time, now scientists believe they have found the answer as to why many struggle to 'multitask'.
According to a team working at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, who worked alongside fellow experts at the University of Edinburgh and Liverpool John Mores University, the key lies in the fact that autistic children always stick rigidly to tasks in the order they are given them.
Indeed, the team found that their study participants had a tendency to do tasks they were given in the order they were told to, even though deviating from the order would have been more time and energy efficient.
Commenting on the findings, study leader Dr Gnanathusharan Rajendran, noted that they could be used to further understanding of autism, potentially spelling good news for special needs teachers across the UK and elsewhere in the world.
"Our research offers a real insight into the problems young people with autism have with multitasking and points the way to further investigation for possible solutions," he said.
"By using, for the first time, a virtual environment, we have been able to examine what may lie behind these problems more closely than might be possible in a real-world setting."
News of the new research comes as specialists working with children with special needs across the county of Dorset celebrate a £200,000 lottery cash windfall.
According to the Dorset Echo newspaper, the money will be channelled towards providing both pre-school and at-school support, specifically in the fields of play and social engagement.