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

A week in the life - Specialist Autism Teacher

​ Many of you will receive a visit or receive a report from a specialist teacher at some point.   Emma and I work on building relationship with our schools so that the teachers see us as a support and resource for them as well as someone who can help their pupils.  We love to encourage and help the SENCOs too,  as we understand the aspects of their job that others in the school rarely do.   That's the benefit of the way we work with schools, regular half termly, monthly or weekly visits (depending on needs and funding) means we know the school, the children and their families and the staff - and they know us really well over time.

So what is a typical week for a Specialist Autism Teacher? 

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A whole child approach

​ When my son was in Year 4 he went off reading and writing. He is a bright boy who gets bored easily, but he had a massive fall in confidence in producing any written work and in reading out loud in class.  That year he had an unconventional teacher.  She had a wicked sense of humour and used sarcasm a lot.  My son said she always made him laugh and she got his jokes.  She wasn't a text book teacher, was far too old school and he thrived in her class and so did most of the children that year.  But when my son 'went off' reading and writing, she called us in and asked us what he was interested in and what he liked best.  We put a list together, and it was at the end my husband said  "You know, there's this book I caught him reading last week called Captain Underpants.He was laughing a lot.But I don't know if that kind of book is allowed at school."  To her credit, the teacher put a box of books together for our son that included Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants), Jeremey Strong and similar authors.  She let him write about the topics in the books and even though his stories were full of pooping, nappies and toilets (with the occasional fast dog aka Jeremey Strong) he re-engaged with writing and that year produced some of his best work.  At parents evening we and the teacher cried with laughter at some of his written work.  When we asked whether it was ok for him to only be writing about toilets and things like that, she confidently said that he would grow out of it and as predicted, by the end of the year he was confidently writing about lots of different things (although he's never lost his toilet humour!).

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SEND book Reviews 2016

Inclusion for Primary School Teachers by Nancy Gedge

Supporting Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities by Cherryl Drabble 

Both published by Bloomsbury (2016)

Reviewing these books was a little daunting.   I know both these ladies well and have great respect for their SEND knowledge and experience.  If you follow either of them on Twitter, you will know that they always talk sense, give great advice and challenge those who don't consider the SEND children in our schools.  However, I wanted to read and review these books with an open mind and without prejudice and so over the Christmas hols I've settled down with a glass of wine (red for each, just to be fair) and jumped into their world of advice for teachers.   Both books are aimed at non-SEND-specialist new or young teachers, SENCOs or teachers wanting a refresher and update on the SEND Code of practice.  Both fulfilled the brief, in my opinion, but I'm going to give you more information about each because they are different books - and in that way they complement each other very well.

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Thinking about your autism pupils afresh

Christmas and the end of the autumn term was more than likely an extra stressful time for the child or children with autism in your class.   As I wrote in this article, there would have been lots of extra changes and sensory overload as well as unpredictable events.  Some children with autism do like Christmas and I hope that all of them had a good holiday at home, but it's likely for some that it was just as stressful, and for many of the same reasons.

A new term is a good opportunity for you to look afresh at your pupils and review where they are up to after their first term in your class.   I don't mean by looking at their academic data (as I'm sure that this will be a feature of your planning this term) but by putting that aside and looking at the whole child you may find some helpful insights to enable you to make the rest of the school year successful for them.

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The Other Side of Autism.

By now you might have heard the story about a dad putting out an appeal for a blue Tommee Tippee cup for his autistic son, Ben,  who won't drink from any other cup.  The cup his son has used since he was 2 years old is wearing out and there is nothing at all they can persuade him to take a drink from. Hundreds of identical cups have now been sent to the family. Tommee Tippee have made a special batch from an old mould so he'll have a life time supply of identical cups.

Doesn't that make you feel good? Does it make you say aaahhh, and restore your faith in humanity?

But have you read on? Have you read that the boys family can still not persuade their son to drink out of any of the new cups…even ones that are battered and old too? It still has to be the same old cup. They have all these identical cups, but to Ben, they are not.  He is not being awkward or naughty.   Ben is autistic. 

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