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. 

Support for Autistic Children and Bereavement

"Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may react to a bereavement in different ways to neurotypical children. Some of the underlying perceptual and processing difficulties observed in children with ASD may affect their understanding of death and their reaction to a bereavement. Children with ASD, like any others, need their grief both recognised and understood and will need opportunities to express how they feel" (Katie Koehler DClinPsych 2016).

It is difficult to explain death and bereavement to a child and more so to an autistic child. During the Recent Covid-19 epidemic many families have lost a loved one. For families with an autistic child, this is made harder as they struggle to express how they feel or understand their emotions. As well as suffering the loss of the person that has died, autistic children can be further distressed by all the changes that might happen in their day-to-day lives as a result of the bereavement.

In this blog, I will try to give you tips to help you support your autistic child to understand what is happening.

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When behaviour of autistic children challenges us, some tips and advice

Autism is a different way of experiencing and thinking about the world.  Communicating in a non-autistic world (and classroom) can be difficult because it is fast, ambiguous and shifts between different people seemingly all at once.  There are many social and communication rules that everyone else seems to know but the autistic child hasn't learned, and people are unpredictable and can't always be trusted to do what they say.  Sensory messages can be overwhelming to an autistic child and some are sensory seeking because their sensory systems need the extra stimulation.  Autistic children are also able to achieve many things and are capable of learning in our classrooms – if we provide the right understanding and support for them.

Sometimes all children's behaviour is confusing, unpredictable and challenging to us.  All human beings have 'behaviour'.  It's what we do.  It's how we react, show how we feel and how we keep ourselves safe.  Behaviour is also communication when we cannot find or use words.  

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Spoon Theory and Autism.

My friend @AnnMemmott who blogs at  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 ) but is a great way of helping us understand why school and college is such hard work for autistic children and young people (CYP) .  @aspiemusings has also written a good post about how it relates to her as an autistic adult.

Let's imagine that the social, sensory and intellectual energy an autistic person 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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Help for children with Pathological Demand Avoidance

Imagine that every day the simplest demands make you panic.  Not just the demands from other people but the demands that you place on yourself, the things you know you should be doing.

Like getting out of bed.  Getting ready for the day.  Getting out of the house.

It's not just feeling lethargic.  It's the crippling anxiety, the inability to make your body do the movements you know it should be able to…but today it just can't.  And what if some days you're not as bad so you manage some things and everyone thinks you are faking it when on other days you are unable to function.

The most important thing to understand about PDA is that it is a "can't" not a "won't".

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Recent Comments
Steph Curtis
Great post. And so true that the proof is in the pudding... you can really see the differences when you use strategies which help,... Read More
Tuesday, 13 August 2019 10:10 PM
Amanda Baker
Finally read something that absolutely makes sense - I think PDA is what my son has - thank you!
Wednesday, 14 August 2019 3:03 PM
Andy Prosser (Admin)
Thanks for including me! I'm always ready and waiting and open to any questions others may have
Friday, 26 January 2018 9:09 PM
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5 Ways to support Autistic Students through Exams

​It's that time of year again. Emma and I have been spending some of last sessions with our autistic Y11 students, supporting them and their teachers through these next few weeks as the GCSE exams loom. 

We thought it may be a good time share some of the wisdom we have learned along the way and give you 5 top tips to help you if you are a teacher or parent supporting a young person through this time...whatever it is they may or may not achieve, it's just one part of education...and after years of doing this, many of them do just fine...

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Local Offer
This is really interesting and some practical helpful advice. Can I share it through our Local Offer social media? I think our par... Read More
Wednesday, 01 May 2019 9:09 AM
Lynn McCann
Yes feel free to share widely - this is a public blog and has been written to help people wherever it can. Hope you have a look a... Read More
Wednesday, 01 May 2019 10:10 AM
Guest — Gareth Todd Jones
Among the best advice I have ever seen..whether you are autistic or not!! Well done!!
Wednesday, 01 May 2019 10:10 AM
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Autism and behaviour in secondary school

I've been reluctant to wade into the sea of behaviour debate I see in the news and on social media at the moment, but I would like to share some insights from my practice about how autistic students in secondary school use behaviour to communicate that something is wrong.  I want to show you how we might go about supporting them so that the real issues are dealt with and behaviour improves.

I do think it is important in secondary classrooms for all students to behave in a manner that enables the lesson to continue and the content and learning to happen   .It is necessary for schools to have a clear behaviour policy and a system of sanctions that are consistently used by all staff.   This provides clear expectations and clarity of procedure.

However, in my many years of experience supporting autistic young people in secondary schools I have learned that negative behaviours always have a reason, and that we can mostly be sure that the autistic student is struggling to communicate what the problem is.  They may get angry, obstinate, oppositional, withdrawn, self-harm or disruptive as a reaction to the frustration and stress of not being able to communicate and sort out a problem.  Sometimes they cannot understand what the problem is they are having.   Sometimes they are trying so hard to be good that the pressure causes them to have meltdown's, usually at home.  We need to listen when parents tell us that - it's a great clue for us that the student is stressed at school.  

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Angela Spence
Finding out the why. So inspiring to see a person centred approach rather than a reactive behaviour policy says approach.
Sunday, 29 September 2019 8:08 AM
Guest — Jane
Great advice Lynne, the workload thing especially so often misunderstood
Wednesday, 08 August 2018 6:06 PM
Andy Prosser (Admin)
Have you any advice on the use of isolation? My son is similar to your second study, leaving school usually during classes or tuto... Read More
Thursday, 20 September 2018 10:10 PM
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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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Guest — Emma W
Love these posts Lynn! What do you think of Carol Gray's stuff? I've found Comic Strip Conversations useful (similar idea to Emoti... Read More
Saturday, 22 April 2017 9:09 PM
Lynn McCann
Yes Emma, I use social stories and comic strip conversations all the time - I should do a post just about them! There is a chapte... Read More
Sunday, 23 April 2017 7:07 AM
Ines Lawlor
Great Blog- I also feel anxiety is a huge issue for children with Autism which really exacerbates any sensory processing difficult... Read More
Tuesday, 25 April 2017 11:11 AM
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What makes transition work for Autistic pupils?

image from

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 he felt less anxious and more in control. 

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
Andy Prosser (Admin)
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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5 things to know when supporting Autistic students in FE

At the beginning of January I was invited to Cardiff and Vale College to do a workshop about supporting autistic students at 6th Form college.  Cardiff and Vale college support students between the ages of 16-18 and beyond, including adult learners and in many different subjects, courses and situations.  

Obviously, all autistic students are different and telling them all I wanted to share in just 90 minutes was a struggle.  So I put this information together wanted to also share this with you on our blog.  

I've organised it to tell you 5 key things I want you to know about autistic learners in FE colleges... 

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Thanks , I enjoyed the read and agree with all the tips and advice you’ve given. I liked the adage "If they can't learn the way ... Read More
Wednesday, 20 May 2020 8:08 AM
Gurwinder Kaur
Thank you, I liked all the advice you have given. I will share this with my class teacher
Wednesday, 20 May 2020 10:10 AM
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What support do teachers need to effectively teach autistic pupils?

Primary teachers are the most creative people I know.   In just one day they explain, instruct, present, make, demonstrate, coach, advise, organise, design, guide, adapt, mentor, listen, comfort, laugh, cry and

…oh and of course…teach!

Each day there are around 30 individual human beings in our care and we want to nurture them, develop their talents, teach them the curriculum and see them make progress.   We want to help them get along with others and contribute to the world.

If one or more of those children are autisitc then primary teachers want the same things for those children.   But an autisitc child may need us to be more adaptable, do things in a different way and build a support structure around them that meets their individual needs. 

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