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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

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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Have you noticed? Girls on the Autistic Spectrum.

​ I've recently worked with some schools to assess and apply for an autism diagnosis for girls.  What was interesting was that each school had had some autism training from me and began to realise that these girls showed some of the same characteristics that I had spoken about.   For some, the diagnosis was straight forward.   However, for at least one, it was not so.  (continued below...)

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Would you expel a four year old?

"Did you hear about that four year old that got expelled from school?"

"Gosh, a four year old, that's shocking.  What must a four year old be like to get expelled?"

What would you say in answer to this?  Would you think hitting other children, running away, refusing to comply, screaming loudly, throwing themselves on the floor, running away and…shock…horror…even hitting the teacher…be grounds enough for expulsion…at four? 

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Guest — Alison
I agree- on the whole- but some children are so badly damaged that main stream school isn't the best provision- and the LA have a ... Read More
Thursday, 10 March 2016 7:07 AM
Lynn McCann
You have hit on a very important point Alison, Schools should not have to threaten or actually expel a child before the LA will f... Read More
Thursday, 10 March 2016 7:07 AM
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Why Whole School Autism Training is Money Well Spent

​ I first heard the term 'autism' in 2003.  I was an early years teacher at the time and the class list for the new year informed me that I had three statemented children, two who had autism, one with cerebral palsy and a couple of children who were under investigation for global development delay.  By then I had been teaching for 12 years, been trained in SEN and had always been interested in supporting pupils with SEN.  These children had teaching assistants assigned to them, we considered ourselves a well organised with an inclusive environment and I was really looking forward to getting to know the children and meeting their needs.  But it turned out a little more difficult than we anticipated…

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Guest — Bren
The main issue I see with certain schools is the 'oh, it's too much effort, it'll take up too much of my time, they've got to get ... Read More
Friday, 06 November 2015 9:09 AM
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Bullying and Autism. We SHOULD do something.

When I was a girl we played out in the street with all the other kids in the street.  There was one boy in our group we all called 'fatty Norman' and would often make fun of him and leave him out.

At the same time, at school,  I was called names because I looked liked Olive Oil from the Popeye cartoons.   My siblings were called names because they had ginger hair.   At some point we were left out, called cruel names and even pushed around or hit because we were different.... 

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