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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

Inclusion Is Hard Work...But Don't Give Up!

Here at REACHOUT ASC we are committed to making mainstream school work for children with Autism.  There are many benefits of staying in the mainstream system, such as a supportive peer group, wider opportunities, good life chances and inclusion in the community.  This doesn't mean that special schools don't give these things, but we are committed to inclusion because we believe it can and should work well for the pupil with ASC (particularly those who are academically able) and their peers, so all benefit from being and learning together.

The reality is that inclusion is hard.  There are so many factors involved from the environments to lack of funding; from attitudes to lack of understanding and resources.   We have seen inclusion work really well, at primary and secondary schools, and we have seen it fail, and the person who it fails the most…is the child. 

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The right way to use Visual Timetables

I bet anyone whose ever had a specialist in to advise them how to support a pupil with autism has been told to use a visual timetable.   I bet it's written down as a strategy in almost every statement or EHCP for ASC pupils.

You might have a visual timetable on your classroom wall.  You might remember to put up the schedule for the day…every day…and even to take off each picture as you finish each activity.   You might be remembering to do this for a child's individual visual timetable.  Well done if you have.   However,  if you haven't had them explained to you properly, it can easily seem as a lot of work for little reason...

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The SEND Reforms so far...?

As travelling Autism Specialist Teachers, Emma and I are privileged to gather a wider picture than most of how the 2014 SEND Reforms are being implemented and working 'on the ground'.   We travel through my LEA, one of the biggest in the country, supporting and advising primary and secondary schools and have been involved in many conversions and new applications for EHCPs.  We've attended SENDCo forums, SLT forums and met EPs and other professionals along the way.  All of us are talking about the Reforms and how they are developing...

So what have we discovered? 

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We are all different...So why don't they see it?

​I've been doing some work with some girls with Autism Spectrum Condition recently and they have been amazingly perceptive about the reasons why they are left out, teased or ignored by their peers.  All of them have talked about not understanding why all the other girls want to be the same as each other and why one minute they are as nice as anything to them, and another time nasty and cruel.  (Two faced!) 

Don't they just have a point! 

Last night I went along to a Poetry Performance from two great poets, Mike Garry and Dr John Cooper Clark.  I haven't written a poem since I was at school, but inspired by them and these amazing girls that I work with I have tried...


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Spoon Theory and Children with ASC in School.

My friend @AnnMemmott who blogs at  http://www.annsautismblog.co.uk  first introduced me to the Spoon Theory in relation to autism.  It was originally created by Christine Miserandino when asked about her chronic illness, (you can read the original post here http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/ ) but is a great way of helping us understand why school is such hard work for children with autism.  @aspiemusings has also written a good post about how it relates to her as an autistic adult. http://musingsofanaspie.com/2014/10/15/conserving-spoons/

Let's imagine that the social and intellectual energy a child has each day can be measured in spoons….

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Recent Comments
Guest — Catherine Cronin
Thanks Lynn....I can fully relate to the spoons theory for myself, not to mention the children you know in our setting. I had a no... Read More
Saturday, 20 February 2016 7:07 PM
Guest — Lisa Savage
I've heard exactly the same thing explained with the metaphor of a glass of water. If we start the day with ours empty, an autisti... Read More
Monday, 22 August 2016 8:08 AM
Guest — Emma Plus Three
This is great, really helps me to understand my sons behavior. x #SpectrumSunday
Wednesday, 24 August 2016 9:09 PM
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Autism in the Early Years

This post is a promised contribution to #childcarehour run by @LyndseyJF @blueybaloo and @earlyyearsideas

Children can be diagnosed with autism before they are 5, but there will also be a significant number of autistic children that are not diagnosed until later.  It is therefore important that early years staff are aware of what autism is, how to recognise the signs in young children and what they can do about it.  Training is important, as is good observation skills and awareness of other SEND conditions, as it may not necessarily be autism. 

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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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