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ReachoutASC:BLOG

Our Blog will include contributions from a number of autism specialists. Lynn, Matt and Emma work for Reachout ASC, plus occasional guest bloggers.
We love to hear about your ideas, opinions, challenges and tips so please join in the conversation!
Lynn McCann

Anti bullying week every week - Why are autistic pupils more likely to be bullied and how can we protect them?

Autism is a developmental and neurological difference. The autistic person many communicate differently, not understand the subtleties of what is being communicated to them and struggle to understand the social norms and conventions that others seem to grasp without any problems.  Other people to the autistic person, are confusing, unpredictable, don't say what they mean and can be very mean.

Children in schools pick on those who are different.  Whether it's curly or ginger hair, the colour of their skin, their clothes, whether they wear glasses or an hearing aid….for some reason that seems built into us, kids pick on these things and can soon make another child's life hell.   I wish the simple solution was to educate all children about autism and other disabilities, and then they would magically understand and be kind.  Work we do with all children and adults to build better understanding and attitudes is vital.  This blog, however, is about some work I've been doing with a group of autistic young people to explore their experiences and empower them by learning together what they can do. 

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Autism and Christmas – Teachers are you ready?

Ok teachers this is THE half term when I get so many more emails about autistic pupils in school and their behaviour.   I wanted to warn you all and help you get ready….but not for the challenging behaviour,  no,  it's supporting your pupils with autism at this time of year that I want to help you with so that the chances of their behaviour changing is lessened.

Of course, the culprit, the trigger for behaviour at this time of year is most likely to be Christmas…not Christmas itself…but the way we DO Christmas.

This is what happens in most primary schools...

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Guest — Cathy Porter
adding to the social story about decorations going up & why we use them, think it's also quite important to include explanations a... Read More
Monday, 31 October 2016 9:09 AM
Fiona Lloyd
Don't insist pupils engage with Santa if they don't want to - if possible, make sure Santa understands this in advance! I'd also s... Read More
Monday, 31 October 2016 7:07 PM
Guest — Alice Soule
You're so right! I try and avoid too many Christmas oriented activities or fetes with my son as I know how much it is focused on w... Read More
Monday, 31 October 2016 10:10 PM
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Sensory Overload from an Adult Professional perspective.

Photo from Reachout ASC conference

​Do we think beyond our autistic pupils and wonder if teaching staff or other professionals may be grow up autistic people?  Sensory overload, social confusion and other differences don't go away, but many autistic adults spend a lot of time and energy trying to 'mask' their difficulties in busy, demanding environments.  This anonymous account from an autistic professional explains why we should make more accommodations so that we can all work better together.  Hope we can all think to ask "What can help?"

Here is their account:

Last week I attended a conference for professionals in education.  It was an amazing event; inspiring, exciting and thought provoking.  There was only one problem. I spent most the day in sensory overload.

If you looked at me sitting on the outskirts of the conference, not making eye contact, not joining conversation what assumptions would you make?  That I don't want to be there?  That I'm aloof? Unfriendly?   What you don't see, what you don't understand is that I am in sensory over load, fighting to keep myself together and maintain some sort of integrity. 

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Recent comment in this post
Guest — Arvinder Singh Paul
Heartfelt post and very much needed. Professionals in conferences need to make autistic professional more welcome and put in place... Read More
Friday, 20 October 2017 9:09 AM
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SEND children are being damaged by our education system, it's not their fault.

image from https://goo.gl/JU5p2R

There is something I've noticed as I travel around schools supporting pupils with autism and their teachers.

Autistic children are unhappy in school. Very unhappy. Many of them show this in their behaviour, and it's often because of their behaviour that I'm asked to help.   I work with PRUs.  They are receiving more and more children, younger and younger who are permanently excluded from mainstream schools.  They are traumatised at an early age.  Older children too are school refusing,  being excluded and let down.  Too many are not getting the help, support and life chances they need and deserve. 

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Guest — Sarah HB
I'm in the same position as you Lynn even down to history and experiences. It truly is a scandal.The thing I find most disturbing ... Read More
Saturday, 14 October 2017 9:09 PM
Guest — Steph Curtis
Totally agree. The system needs a huge overhaul - for the sake of all cgi,Daren, not just those with #SEND! But the #SEND children... Read More
Saturday, 14 October 2017 11:11 PM
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What is a sensory diet and how do I implement one in my busy classroom?

Image from: Let's Talk Autism course by Lynn McCann

​ Many autistic children have Sensory Processing Disorders. (And so do children with Down's Syndrome, ADHD and other or no other conditions). Their sensory systems (as above) can be hyper (over) or hypo (under) sensitive and this affects the way that they understand, perceive and interact with the world around them.  It also affects their perception of their own bodies and how they function.  And I'm often asked whether the sensory responses can be different on different days – yes, they can.  Some sensory responses can be hyper and some hypo – in the same person.

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Preparing an autism friendly secondary classroom

Photo from Ann Memmott www.annsautismblog.com showing what visual hyper-sensitivity can be like in a classroom.

As I promised, here are my tips for secondary teachers getting ready for the next school year.  There are likely to be a number of students with autism or other SEND needs coming into your classes this year and I want to share some of the tips and advice that I would usually pass on to secondary teachers.

Emma and I work with around ten secondary schools and our support looks very different from the work we do with primaries.  The differences in the way a secondary school works brings up additional challenges for the school SENCO and for individual teachers.

Firstly, the movement between lessons, having up to six different teachers each day and the responsibility of being organised, on time for lessons and doing homework are major challenges for autistic / SEND pupils.  On top of that is the minefield of social relationships, especially in Year 7 when children are meeting lots of new children from different feeder primaries and everyone is working out new relationships and friendships.   I'm not going to go into all the challenges and issues in this blog, but give teachers some tips on how they can make their classrooms and lessons autism/SEND friendly and a little bit of advice for a whole school approach that really makes a huge difference. 

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Preparing an autism friendly primary classroom.

Photo from Ann Memmott www.annsautismblog.com showing what visual hyper-sensitivity can be like in a classroom.

"The classroom is each teacher's mini-kingdom and the 'home' of your pupils for most of the school day.  Teachers lavish care and attention on how it is set out and how they decorate it, and spend time organising furniture and equipment that they and their pupils will need to access throughout the year. In primary classrooms, hours are spent printing and laminating and setting out displays, and carefully choosing words, pictures and prompts for pupils' writing, maths and topic work.   Coat pegs and drawers are labelled, boxes and books are given out and groups of tables are given a name.  In the Early Years, parts of the room are often sectioned off into creative, 'small world' or sensory play areas and most classrooms have a common focus area, usually in front of the whiteboard, where pupils will gather to listen to the teacher presenting a lesson.   At the beginning of the school year, the classroom is bright, stimulating, labelled, and ready for a new intake of pupils." 

Lynn McCann (2017) page 21

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Welcome to our Blog!


Whether you are a parent, carer, teacher, health professional or someone on the Autism spectrum, we hope you'll find this blog useful and  informative.  (Read more to meet the team...)

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​Help! I've Got a Child with Autism in My Class

Don't panic

If you are getting a child with autism in your class for the first time this September, you may have heard many things about autism which makes you nervous about being able to meet the child needs within your class this year.  The first thing to remember is that every child with autism is different, has their own strengths as well as difficulties and with the right support can usually have a successful year in your class.

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Guest — HilaryForbes
Great post, tried to rate this as 5, and it came up as 3, not sure how to change it, think it's because I used my phone...
Wednesday, 02 September 2015 11:11 PM
Guest — Sarah
Excellent! I'm a parent of 4 sons, 3 with ASD and I work as a TA in eyfs, do think it's a fabulous starting point for anyone new t... Read More
Thursday, 03 September 2015 6:06 PM
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Whats in a Name? Understanding Autism Labels.

It was in 2004 and I was working as an EYFS teacher that I first heard the term autism.  This was strange in itself as I'd already been teaching since 1991 and had done a lot of SEN training as a student, a teacher and then as a SENCO. Two boys in my class came with Statements, one saying 'Autism' and the other 'Aspergers Syndrome'.   Each boy was very different.   One mainly communicated by screaming, the other had language.   We were lucky, early on we had some training about autism, put the strategies in place and we got through the year, learning together.  The boy with the 'Autism' label went to a special school after that, the other continued in mainstream, left high school last year and is now at college.

It was those boys who sparked my fascination with autism and soon after that year I left to pursue my career in a specialist autism school, did my autism qualifications and ended up using my mainstream experience to support other schools as I set up the outreach service from the specialist school. (Continued....)

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