I've recently worked with some schools to assess and apply for an autism diagnosis for girls. What was interesting was that each school had had some autism training from me and began to realise that these girls showed some of the same characteristics that I had spoken about. For some, the diagnosis was straight forward. However, for at least one, it was not so. (continued below...)
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"Did you hear about that four year old that got expelled from school?"
"Gosh, a four year old, that's shocking. What must a four year old be like to get expelled?"
What would you say in answer to this? Would you think hitting other children, running away, refusing to comply, screaming loudly, throwing themselves on the floor, running away and…shock…horror…even hitting the teacher…be grounds enough for expulsion…at four?
I first heard the term 'autism' in 2003. I was an early years teacher at the time and the class list for the new year informed me that I had three statemented children, two who had autism, one with cerebral palsy and a couple of children who were under investigation for global development delay. By then I had been teaching for 12 years, been trained in SEN and had always been interested in supporting pupils with SEN. These children had teaching assistants assigned to them, we considered ourselves a well organised with an inclusive environment and I was really looking forward to getting to know the children and meeting their needs. But it turned out a little more difficult than we anticipated…
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...
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...
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.
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...
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.
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?
"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....