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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

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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Why I’m changing my language about Autism

I previously wrote about the debate about what words we might use to say someone has autism…or is autistic here.

Since then the debate has gone on and the more I listen to autistic people the more they are taking their identity and pride from being autistic.

The problem with 'having autism' or 'person with autism' is that it separates a person from autism and can easily lead to the autism as being something seen as 'bad' or 'wrong'.  There are whole charities and industries based on autism being 'wrong' and some of the treatments and so called cures are inhumane.  Anyone heard of forcing autistic children to drink bleach?  Then there are those like the charity Autism Speaks, which spends the majority of its funding on finding a cure for autism. That's why many autistic people don't like their 'Light it up Blue' campaignin April as its supporting the fact that they are the 'wrong' type of people. Autism is not a burden, a disease or a curse.

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8 ways to help Autistic pupils manage anxiety

I was born worrying, so my mum said.  I don't really know what it is like not to have a million worries running through my head all at once.  Every conceivable disaster is imagined once my brain focusses on a particular thought - There's a downside to having a wild imagination.

But over the years I have learned a lot about anxiety and have many strategies that work for me in coping with it.  I can manage it.  I can recognise when it comes, what it is and fight it off.   Sometimes it goes quietly, sometimes I'm exhausted after the battle.   But I usually win these days.  Anxiety doesn't control me like it used to.

There's an upside to having a wild imagination too.  I can write stories and get really involved in a fantasy world in books and films.  I love craft and sewing.   And I can empathise when others tell me they are anxious all the time too. Anxiety's energy can be harnessed for good.

When I work with children and young people who are autistic, they often seem anxious and many will tell me that they are...
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Review of Teaching Assistant support in a secondary school

image from www.cliparting.com

This project was done by an HLTA in a large mainstream secondary school. It has around 1700 students on roll and between 2-3% of their pupils with identified SEND – with and without Statements/EHCPs. Many of those are students with a diagnosis of ASD but there are also a number of pupils with physical and other learning difficulties. I have supported the school's ASD students for the last few years which has included group and 1:1 interventions during my monthly visits which the TAs then continue to support between visits. I have done regular training and department meetings for teachers and the TA team. I asked the HLTA if I could share her dissertation findings after she gave a presentation on it during a training day I was supporting. It is interesting that she has investigated the effectiveness and deployment of the teaching assistants in the school and the effect on the student's achievements (not shown here but almost all ASD students were making good progress on the school tracking system). What has come from this is evidence of good practice and areas for development that the school are now implementing - leading to better communication between teachers and TAs.

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Post 16 Transition for students with SEND / ASC.

At this time of year many secondary teachers are thinking about the looming GCSE's for their Y11's and may also be thinking about what happens next for their students. If a student has SEND / ASC then there are additional challenges when leaving school and moving on to the next step in their educational lives.

I often find that the student's themselves realise in Y10 that they will soon be leaving school. For some they may be so relieved that it's all they want to think about.  For other's it's such a massive change in their lives, after all, being at school is all they've ever known, that the anxiety it causes can seriously impact on their concentration, mental wellbeing and motivation in school.  Some are so anxious, they cannot bear to talk about it. 

This blog is co-written by @Mr_ALNCo an FE Teacher who's created a role for a Transition Support Worker at his FE college in South Wales. First I am going to look at transition to college or training from the viewpoint of the school, and James is going to offer advice from the college's point of view. 

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