ā Many of you will receive a visit or receive a report from a specialist teacher at some point. Emma and I work on building relationship with our schools so that the teachers see us as a support and resource for them as well as someone who can help their pupils. We love to encourage and help the SENCOs too, as we understand the aspects of their job that others in the school rarely do. That's the benefit of the way we work with schools, regular half termly, monthly or weekly visits (depending on needs and funding) means we know the school, the children and their families and the staff - and they know us really well over time.
So what is a typical week for a Specialist Autism Teacher?
āA typical week for me would consist of visits to 4 or 5 different schools. I try to space them out so I have time to prepare any resources or activities before I go and time to write up the visit and any reports afterwards.
I work differently in primary schools than in secondary schools but I love the variety.
This week I went to one primary school for a whole day. There are 5 pupils with ASD diagnoses and a couple more pupils who we are supporting and keeping an eye on. So, I meet with the children and their teachers, we discuss the progress since my last visit (all recorded on their action plan) and then look at how we can move on. We decide what we want to achieve with the child's input and I will suggest strategies and resources where needed. I wrote a social story with one child and he's going to find some pictures to go with it with his teaching assistant. With one teacher we planned how to go about explaining puberty; I had two meetings with Y5 parents about choosing the next steps for KS3, reviewed a sensory diet and planned some communication work with another child. The autism chat continued over lunch as I ate my sandwiches with the staff in the staffroom (they like to get all their questions in while I'm there!); a quick catch up with the SENCO and a chat about the paperwork for an EHCP application and the day was done. Each child and their staff is left with an updated action plan (when I've typed them up in the next couple of days) and I will see them again next half term.
I visited 3 secondary schools this week. I work more directly with the children with ASD themselves in groups or individually. Most of my schools send me an update before I go so that I can go prepared with activities and resources. I've done Lego Therapy, Social games, used Emotion Works to help with some difficult issues and behaviours (finding out what's really happening) made a CAMHS referral, taught a child about their sensory system, taught some Somerset Thinking Skills and helped a child design a Liverpool Football Club mood diary (at his request!). One school I go to weekly, another every 3 weeks and the other monthly. Each pupil or group gets an action plan and I make what resources I can for them, so the time in my office after the visits are busy too. I've spoken to teaching assistants and subject teachers and attended department meetings to ensure the best support across the school. And, of course, I meet with parents so I build that relationship with them too. Working for myself affords me the luxury of not having to stay at the schools till home time or for afterschool meetings, so I plan in my admin time to keep up with the paperwork (that's the theory ā I have yet to be totally on top of paperwork!) This week I have 2 Annual Review reports and a report to support an EHCP application to write as well, so my laptop is on fire!
I've also done a home visit to a pupil who is school-refusing, working with them and their parents on making a plan to return to education. This isn't a quick-fix job. We are doing a lot of work about anxiety and communication and through Lego and other interests we are slowly building a positive relationship.
Most weeks I do some training. Last week I delivered a L3 Next Steps Autism course for teachers and this week I'm hosting Claire Murray who is delivering her amazing Emotion Works resources that we use all the time and that I wrote about here. Next week I'll be doing the second twilight INSET session for a school I visited before Christmas.
Sounds busy doesn't it! I'm also continually learning and developing my autism courses, liaising with Emma who is our other specialist teacher and Meriel our administrator. I've written some magazine articles and this blog while my hubby is watching football on TV. Some weeks I do something completely different or unusual and I love that. I've always got ideas and plans rushing around my head.
One thing is for sure ā every week is different and the core of what we do is working with our schools and their pupils with ASD to make school better.