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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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Autism Awareness or Acceptance?

find out more from http://www.autismacceptancemonth.com/about/

Autism Awareness Month in April has now become a regular event. Famous landmarks have been lit up in blue, people wear blue and events are organised.

You might think, isn't this good for autism?  The more people are aware, the better it is for the 1 in 68 of our children and the adults on the spectrum?  When it is done well, it is really helpful.  But in this blog, I want to make us think about whether understanding autism people with autism (or autistic people) needs more acceptance than awareness.

The trouble is that awareness is hard to measure.  Most people have now heard of autism…is that 'awareness'?  But having heard of autism creates many problems in my experience.  Suddenly, people thinking they know what autism is, creates more misunderstanding and wrong expectations than you might expect.  For example, there are still people who think every autistic person is like Rainman.  They are expecting the child's exceptional ability to memorise the phone book or do complicated maths and are left disappointed when there is nothing of the sort.  People still believe that autism needs to be cured (to the point they will make them drink bleach), or that an autistic person doesn't want friends or they cannot live a full and fruitful life....
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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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Recent Comments
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
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Will being more positive make us better teachers?

image from https://creatingbranches.com/tag/parent-teacher-communication/

Yes, I know, there's a lot to moan about in teaching at the moment. We've had so many changes, so many demands and so much pressure put on us over the past few years (actually forever) and the funding cuts and the threat of mass accademisation still hasn't gone away. The SEND reforms are in a mess and the media are against us...as everything wrong in society is the teacher's fault, naturally, and far too many good teachers are leaving. 

However, with a new year starting I want to be more positive. I'm fed up of the doom and gloom dragging me down and making me feel more stressed than I probably need to be. And reading the tweets about the College of Teaching this week, some positive and some very negative, it made me sigh. I'd love it to be something that we could all feel positive about because I do believe that being positive makes us better teachers and a better profession. 

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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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Recent Comments
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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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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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
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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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