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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

Sensory Overload from an Adult Professional perspective.

Photo from Reachout ASC conference

​Do we think beyond our autistic pupils and wonder if teaching staff or other professionals may be grown up autistic people?  Sensory overload, social confusion and other differences don't go away, but many autistic adults spend a lot of time and energy trying to 'mask' their difficulties in busy, demanding environments.  This anonymous account from an autistic professional explains why we should make more accommodations so that we can all work better together.  Hope we can all think to ask "What can help?"

Here is their account:

Last week I attended a conference for professionals in education.  It was an amazing event; inspiring, exciting and thought provoking.  There was only one problem. I spent most the day in sensory overload.

If you looked at me sitting on the outskirts of the conference, not making eye contact, not joining conversation what assumptions would you make?  That I don't want to be there?  That I'm aloof? Unfriendly?   What you don't see, what you don't understand is that I am in sensory over load, fighting to keep myself together and maintain some sort of integrity. 

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SEND children are being damaged by our education system, it's not their fault.

image from https://goo.gl/JU5p2R

There is something I've noticed as I travel around schools supporting pupils with autism and their teachers.

Autistic children are unhappy in school. Very unhappy. Many of them show this in their behaviour, and it's often because of their behaviour that I'm asked to help.   I work with PRUs.  They are receiving more and more children, younger and younger who are permanently excluded from mainstream schools.  They are traumatised at an early age.  Older children too are school refusing,  being excluded and let down.  Too many are not getting the help, support and life chances they need and deserve. 

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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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