Learning / Living Styles and Autism


Towards the development of a new model of learning within Autism…

Many of us have heard of the VAK learning styles: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Gravitating to one of these styles is something that is more pronounced within Autism, and it goes beyond the structured learning experience and into the realms of “living” every day. Beyond VAK, Autistic individuals have specific styles of Interacting with the world. We will call them Interaction Styles. Interaction Styles are actually strengths unique to Autism! This doesn’t mean that the allistic population will not have these strengths. In fact many will resonate with them. Autistic individuals will experience them as a default not a preference…

This area would benefit from more research, but some initial ideas are forming and are discussed below.

Interaction Styles


The need to be in a natural environment outdoors, with animals, plants and elements.


The need to, and the ability to make sense of the world with patterns. This could include geometry, order, repeat frequency, lists and other pattern based approaches.


Word precision, word play, echolaelia all fall within this approach. Questions need to be precise, true meaning is uncovered within conversation very quickly by individuals with this strength.


Touch, texture, exploration. Often these individuals will crave certain textures and feelings and conversely they will feel repelled by others. Understanding this allows for the correct approach.


This as a broad heading may include elements of the aforementioned VAK, but it runs deeper than this. For many on the spectrum, sensory capacity is augmented, and, or can be jumbled. Attempting to learn or interact in an environment where every rustle, cough, sniff, vibration of a moved chair leg on a tiled floor, slurp, flashing light, buzzing, crunch and so on – is extremely difficult. This snowstorm of senses may mean that the auditory learner doesn’t even realise that they learn well from listening, and this style may hide within other aspects of Autism.


This individual needs logic rather than emotion within interactions.


This individual sees how things work, wants to take things apart. They are often able to measure and weigh things accurately very naturally.


This individual may enjoy math, although it may be numbers as an aspect of Math. Counting is often therapeutic and essential.

Solitary is NOT a learning style! It is a coping mechanism. The Autistic individual that locks themself away will enjoy sharing their special interest immensely if the the context and approach is right…

What it all means

When you look at the above, it is important to realise that there is crossover between them, and also context dependency. Each approach can be used and enjoyed if the context is right. The approaches can be used to broaden the experience and capability of the individual. They can be combined. If they are tailored to the individual, every single approach can be enjoyable for an individual on the spectrum! The approaches go beyond learning within the formal educational setting. They continue into the life-long learning sector and can enrich life, relationships and interaction with the world. The above will now be researched as part of a doctoral thesis. Standby for updates…

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