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Lynn McCann

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
Lynn McCann began working as  a mainstream class teacher and was an early years lecturer and SENCO.   More recently I have over 10 years experience in autism education, outreach and training in a specialist education setting.   I have training and experience in autism theory and research, PECS, Sensory Integration, SCERTS, TEACCH, ASC and Puberty, Social Stories and Forest Schools. 

Autism and Homework

picture from https://www.thetricyclecollective.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Homework.jpg

​This isn't the blog I was going to write, I was planning on one about transition (will get to it),  but I'm a member of the email-based SENCO forum and an interesting question was asked about Autistic students and homework.  It is seriously one of the biggest issues we have to deal with when we support secondary students with ASC, so I thought it would be worth sharing my suggestions here too. 

So...if you have a student refusing, never seeming to do homework, parents are saying that it is causing meltdowns and great distress, the student is always in detention for homework not being done, or their homework is of poor quality, here are some thoughts from Emma and I...

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YULIANA
Should there also be essay writing help service ? Because i dont see why there is stuff here that just isnt closely in link to tha... Read More
Wednesday, 03 January 2018 6:06 PM
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Being depressed isn’t part of Autism

I love working with autistic children and young people and because I spend a lot of time learning about the autism spectrum and listening to each individual child;  it can be really obvious to me that each autistic person is positive, full of strengths and talents and, given the right support, has lots of potential.

But sometimes their lives are pretty tough.

Children and young people with autism can be carers,  come from chaotic families,  be in care,  suffer from being bullied,  have other conditions such as epilepsy,  can get cancer,  have people in their family pass away,   get ill…. And also suffer from mental illness.

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What makes transition work for ASC pupils?

image from https://tentotwenty.com

Autistic pupils can find everyday transitions difficult, as well as the major transitions that happen. The reasons can include:

  • Not being told what the change will involve,
  • What will be expected of them,
  • How long it's going to last,
  • Perceived or real sensory challenges,
  • Not being given time enough to process the changes or enough information to do so
  • Being so engrossed and comfortable in what they are doing that they cannot seem to switch attention and move to somewhere else,

Transitions can cause a lot of anxiety.

If you're involved in supporting children with every day transitions and often a visual timetable used correctly (see my blog post here) can help enormously and give the pupil some interaction and choices when appropriate. Giving them time to process and information about what to expect is important.  An example is a child who hated lining up because he didn't know where he was going.  He did everything he can to avoid lining up, such as hitting others in the hope he'd be made to stay behind.  For him, we worked with him to ask "Where are we going?";  So he didn't have to rely on an adult telling him, and the behaviours ceased. 

But what about the major transition of moving to the next class or from Primary to Secondary School...

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Guest — Christine
As a home tutor attached to a PRU, I work with several autistic students for whom transition to secondary has not worked, for many... Read More
Monday, 25 April 2016 10:10 AM
Lynn McCann
Thanks for commenting Christine. It is always interesting to hear of other's experiences. 'Robust' is indeed a good word to use f... Read More
Monday, 25 April 2016 8:08 PM
claire
Hi Lynn, I recently listened to your talk at the ASD Exhibition in London. It was great!! You mentioned you were putting the power... Read More
Thursday, 21 June 2018 9:09 AM
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Supporting mental health for primary age pupils with SEND

My Worry Eater - http://sorgenfresser.com

​ When I was asked to do a two hour presentation on this topic I knew it wouldn't be straight forward.  Mental health is in itself a complex condition – we are all human and all complex in our physical and mental health.  But as we want to build up and develop good habits to look after our physical bodies, then we also should want to do the same for our mental wellbeing.   So I had to ask – what do mainstream class teachers need to know and what advice could I give them that they can implement in their classrooms?

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Building good relationships with parents of children with autism.

image from http://quotesgram.com/

"We don't see that behaviour at school"

"He's doing it on purpose, he gets away with it at home"

"There's no structure at home, you know"

These are one or two of the comments I hear regularly.It certainly not from all teachers or teaching staff, and it's certainly not heard in many schools I work with.  But during training discussions or the occasional, off-the-cuff remark, there is an underlying search to find blame for a child with autism's behaviour.   Especially when they have meltdowns – in school or at home.   Or if the behaviour is a controlling or manipulating behaviour.   No teacher likes to think a child is trying to manipulate them.  We are human after all.

Don't get me wrong....
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Guest — Geetha Shilesh
Thanks a ton for this post. I have enjoyed a good rapport with many parents of special needs children but have also had some unfor... Read More
Wednesday, 19 October 2016 12:12 AM
Guest — Danielle (Someone's Mum)
This is such a useful post. I wrote a similar one a while ago - as I have been a teacher dealing with children on the spectrum bef... Read More
Saturday, 29 October 2016 10:10 AM
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Emotion Works _ What is it and how can I use it in my classroom/setting?

Emotion Works was developed by Claire Murray in Edinburgh and about 18 months ago I came across it on the internet.  The first thing that caught my eye was the visual cogs.  Thinking that this would be good for the pupils with autism that we support at Reachout ASC,  we jumped on a train and attended a training day in Glasgow.

We 'got it' straight away.  We were working to develop the emotional literacy and problem solving skills of our pupils and here was a resource that would enable us to do this better.  We liked it because it was visual and structured.  It broke down all the issues around emotions into manageable components and this gave us the chance to use it flexibly with pupils of all different ages and abilities.  The pack and licence gave us everything we needed to get us started and we still find there is everything we need in that.  The extras that Claire has developed are great too.

This is from the Emotion Works website, explaining how Emotion Works works.

At the heart of the Emotion Works Approach is a simple and versatile visual resource called 'The Component Model of Emotion'.  This colour-coded model identifies seven aspects of emotional knowledge and competence that work together to show how 'emotion works'.

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jeff hughes
I'd love to come to the Emotion Works day -- it looks really useful!However, I am hoping to be on a train in Vietnam at that time... Read More
Friday, 18 November 2016 10:10 AM
Lynn McCann
It will be best to look at www.emotionworks.org.uk for details Jeff.
Monday, 28 November 2016 8:08 AM
Baughan
Great
Monday, 14 May 2018 6:06 AM
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The Other Side of Autism.

By now you might have heard the story about a dad putting out an appeal for a blue Tommee Tippee cup for his autistic son, Ben,  who won't drink from any other cup.  The cup his son has used since he was 2 years old is wearing out and there is nothing at all they can persuade him to take a drink from. Hundreds of identical cups have now been sent to the family. Tommee Tippee have made a special batch from an old mould so he'll have a life time supply of identical cups.

Doesn't that make you feel good? Does it make you say aaahhh, and restore your faith in humanity?

But have you read on? Have you read that the boys family can still not persuade their son to drink out of any of the new cups…even ones that are battered and old too? It still has to be the same old cup. They have all these identical cups, but to Ben, they are not.  He is not being awkward or naughty.   Ben is autistic. 

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Thinking about your autism pupils afresh

Christmas and the end of the autumn term was more than likely an extra stressful time for the child or children with autism in your class.   As I wrote in this article, there would have been lots of extra changes and sensory overload as well as unpredictable events.  Some children with autism do like Christmas and I hope that all of them had a good holiday at home, but it's likely for some that it was just as stressful, and for many of the same reasons.

A new term is a good opportunity for you to look afresh at your pupils and review where they are up to after their first term in your class.   I don't mean by looking at their academic data (as I'm sure that this will be a feature of your planning this term) but by putting that aside and looking at the whole child you may find some helpful insights to enable you to make the rest of the school year successful for them.

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SEND book Reviews 2016

Inclusion for Primary School Teachers by Nancy Gedge

Supporting Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities by Cherryl Drabble 

Both published by Bloomsbury (2016)

Reviewing these books was a little daunting.   I know both these ladies well and have great respect for their SEND knowledge and experience.  If you follow either of them on Twitter, you will know that they always talk sense, give great advice and challenge those who don't consider the SEND children in our schools.  However, I wanted to read and review these books with an open mind and without prejudice and so over the Christmas hols I've settled down with a glass of wine (red for each, just to be fair) and jumped into their world of advice for teachers.   Both books are aimed at non-SEND-specialist new or young teachers, SENCOs or teachers wanting a refresher and update on the SEND Code of practice.  Both fulfilled the brief, in my opinion, but I'm going to give you more information about each because they are different books - and in that way they complement each other very well.

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A whole child approach

​ When my son was in Year 4 he went off reading and writing. He is a bright boy who gets bored easily, but he had a massive fall in confidence in producing any written work and in reading out loud in class.  That year he had an unconventional teacher.  She had a wicked sense of humour and used sarcasm a lot.  My son said she always made him laugh and she got his jokes.  She wasn't a text book teacher, was far too old school and he thrived in her class and so did most of the children that year.  But when my son 'went off' reading and writing, she called us in and asked us what he was interested in and what he liked best.  We put a list together, and it was at the end my husband said  "You know, there's this book I caught him reading last week called Captain Underpants.He was laughing a lot.But I don't know if that kind of book is allowed at school."  To her credit, the teacher put a box of books together for our son that included Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants), Jeremey Strong and similar authors.  She let him write about the topics in the books and even though his stories were full of pooping, nappies and toilets (with the occasional fast dog aka Jeremey Strong) he re-engaged with writing and that year produced some of his best work.  At parents evening we and the teacher cried with laughter at some of his written work.  When we asked whether it was ok for him to only be writing about toilets and things like that, she confidently said that he would grow out of it and as predicted, by the end of the year he was confidently writing about lots of different things (although he's never lost his toilet humour!).

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