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advice on autism please :)

Discussion in 'Special educational needs' started by jo2882, Dec 1, 2011.

  1. I work in a mainstream secondary school with children with special educational needs. Any strategies or tips on working with children with serve autism? thankyou :)
  2. Have a look on the National Autistic website, there is always a wealth of information on there and lots of resources that can be used within the classroom. Hope this helps [​IMG]
  3. thankyou so much, ill have a nosy now :) x
  4. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Beware, beware, beware!
    A diagnosis of autism is a very blunt instrument. Treat people as individuals. No two people with autism are necessarily any more alike than two random people plucked from a crowd.
    They may seek out sensory stimulation with every fibre of their being and spend their days fiddling, rocking, humming or they may flee from sensation and fight you if you stand in their way.
    And don't fall into the supposed 'inflexibility' trap. People will tell you not to vary their routines. I say nonsense. You are doing them a complete disservice if you keep everything the same and deferring the time when they will have to learn to assimilate into everyday life.
  5. Completely agree with grumpydogwoman except for the 'have to learn to
    assimilate' bit. People, autistic or not, vary hugely as to how much
    they integrate into the rest of society. There are no hard and fast
    rules about how much this 'has' to happen.
    What's important is
    that autistic children get sufficient support to expand their repertoire
    of skills in a way they can cope with. If they can't cope, it's
    Also, I'm a bit puzzled as to why a child with severe autism is in a mainstream school. Could the OP expand on what is meant by severe?

  6. I agree with Grumpydogwoman. 6 out of the 9 students I work with have a diagnosis of autism but they are completely different from each other. One loves loud noises and will bang, clap and crash absolutely everything she can because she likes the sound of it whilst another gets upset by loud noises and will leave the situation if at all possible. Autism is a spectrum disorder for a reason-not only does it occur across the ability range but the symptoms vary so much from person to person. 2 of the students diagnosed with autism have absolutely no adherence to routine at all and are extremely flexible with regards to their day being changed which a lot of people see as not indicative of autism. We had an autism lecture in April and the lecturer explained it as like a DJ mixing deck. One person may be extremely high on the avoiding social interaction side of things but have very high language abilities (what most people would identify as Aspergers) whilst another may have significant communication problems but be very affectionate towards other people. This is just an example but I hope it explains what I mean. I have Aspergers myself and always found myself differing from other people with Aspergers I met at school and university-I will seek out social interaction on my own terms but apparently my interaction is not "normal" because I can only really talk about my specialist interests which is why I cope so well at work because one of my specialist interests is special needs and I work in a special school.
  7. The best piece of advice I have ever been given regarding autism/aspergers is .... "once you have met someone with autism, you have met one person with autism."
    Everyone is completely unique and special.
  8. One tip I would like to pass on after working many years with children with autism is give them processing time. So many people working with asd kids just don't give them time to process information and presume they don't know answers or don't understand - just give them extra time and you may be surprised:).
  9. Totally agree with the last post, we were once advised to give 9 seconds thinking time, which is almost an uncomfortable length of time to wait but very often well worth the wait!
  10. And I totally agree with midgey, give the child thinking time, and speeking time, it can take time for an ASD child to communicate both verbally and in written form what they know, but once understood they can often take it to a higher level of understanding, if given the time and in some cases the peace to process.
    I also advise listening to parents, they have knowledge of their own child and that childs personal traits. I agree some parents can be unrealistic in their demands, but they will have knowledge that you can use to the benefit of the child, the class and your teaching practice. Learn to grasp from them the things you can use in school to help everyone.
    I had to leave work to home educate our ASD daughter, due to one teacher thinking she knew better than me, the parent, this ended in a confident, outgoing high functioning ASD child aged 6yrs old who was on track educationally, turning into a school refuser, self harming and screaming at the sight of school. What had the Teacher done to cause this, simple, she removed the coping strategies set up by the SEN and parent team, because our daughter was showing a calm and interactive personality with in class and did not need a TA. The teacher could not get her head round the fact that it was these strategies, visual calander, oops card, carpet spot and quiet writing corner that allowed for our particular child to interact.
    All ASD children are different, as are all children in class, something we should all work at remembering. Inclusion is difficult in mainstream for ASD, but for high functioning ASD there is no alternative, as they are not severe enough for special school, and if the parent cannot home educate, then mainstream it is.
    However, the most important person in all this is the child and they can usually, in one form or another, tell you for themselves what they want and need, so there is your first port of call above everyone else. Ask the child what they need to help them relax and learn ;)
    Best Wishes.
  11. I have worked with children with ASD for several years, both in mainstream primary and with secondary aged pupils in a special school. As has been said already, each child is individual and this must therefore be your starting point.

    Speak to the children. A child who has significant speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) - as do many with ASD - may find it difficult to convey his/her needs but in general this would be where you begin. Ask the pupils what works for them. Help them to tell you what kind of teachers they like, ie they like teachers who ... and they don't like it when teachers ... If they cannot express this verbally or in writing, could they draw a picture? Could they convey it through role play or playing with dolls?

    Speak to the parents. Find out what works for them at home and what is still a problem. Find out what has worked successfully in previous classes/schools and what has not gone so well. Have they needed communication aids? What have their previous teachers done for them? How has their child responded to visual timetables, visual aids, changes in routines, whole class work, small group work and one to one, etc etc. If there are several children in your class, perhaps you could arrange for a meeting with all of them. They may find this useful as they could also build up contacts. Although this may be a daunting prospect, I am sure that parents would be very pleased that you have taken the initiative and really care about helping their children succeed. If this is not your own class, why not get together with their teacher and any other staff so you can all meet with the parents together? Just an idea.

    In line with this, research communication passports. These are basically information sheets (as short or as long as you want) which outline important information about each child, his/her likes and dislikes, and specifics about what communication needs he/she has and how best to address these. The idea is that these are created with input from the child, parents and anyone else who knows the child well enough to have an input. Ideally these would be created on transition from primary school but there is no reason why they cannot be made later on if this has not happened.

    The key things I have found useful are:

    1. Speak slowly and clearly. And say less. Teachers tend to talk too much (myself included) and pupils with any kind of SLCN just cannot process all of this. The important bits therefore tend to get missed.
    2. Repeat instructions in as few words as possible. Say the child's name before you give the instruction rather than after. If you say 'Put the pen down, Daniel' a child with ASD may only start to pay attention when he hears his name. Therefore, 'Daniel, put the pen down' is better as he will hear the whole instruction. If necessary, 'Daniel, pen down' accompanied by a gesture may be more appropriate.
    3. Use lots of visual aids. Don't be scared by this. I used to think this would mean lots and lots of preparation time. It can do but it doesn't have to. It can be as simple as writing down key words or instructions. It can include pictures, symbols and photographs. It can be as simple or complex as you like and you will build up a bank of resources over time.
    4. Give plenty of processing time. One of the above responses mentions 9 seconds. I was told an average of 15 seconds is about right but some pupils will need longer. I read somewhere - perhaps on the IDP though I can't remember - that one teacher found a child needed a minute to answer a question but then gave the right answer. You may get this wrong on occasion but as you get to know the children you will get better at knowing when they are panicking because they don't know the answer and daren't say so and when they are just processing. Again, using fewer words in the question will help.
    5. Don't think these tips only apply to pupils with identified ASD. The majority of children will benefit from these, including those with non ASD related SLCN, dyslexia and other SEN. A significant percentage of people are visual learners so they too will benefit from this.
    6. Look into social stories. These are not very interesting stories but if a child is struggling with some aspect of life, including behaviour, they put the situation into context for a child and help him/her see how other people feel and how his/her behaviour affects others. They help a child see what is appropriate behaviour. They also work for situations where a child feels anxious or experiences other negative emotions. There are guidelines on how these should be written in order to be effective so it is worth looking into these properly.
    6. Live and learn. Try out different techniques and approaches and see what works. You may well have some lessons which don't go well at all but if you are willing to be flexible and creative, you will definitely find some ways of making your teaching more enjoyable and effective for all concerned. That is what we all endeavour to do after all, for all our pupils.

    I too would recommend visiting the National Autistic Society's website and accessing the IDP Autism materials. In addition, if you have a local special school or a school with a unit for pupils with ASD, visit them and see what they do. Perhaps they will have resources you can copy. They will certainly have staff whom you can talk to; they should be happy to pass on any tips and answer any queries you have. The special school I work in contains an Outreach Support Service and delivers training at our school and at other schools. We are also open to visitors from other schools whenever they want to visit and chat to us. This is in fact how I came to work in this special school, because I had got to know some staff here and built up a network of support. This is excellent CPD and your Head should acknowledge this.

    If you have any specific queries or examples of difficulties you have faced, please post them and I'll try to help. If I don't know the answer myself, I know lots of people who probably will.
  12. Sorry my previous response is one huge paragraph! When I typed it, I separated out the paragraphs and bullet points. Does anyone know how to format these comments properly please? Thank you.
  13. ecossaise

    ecossaise New commenter

    OMG!! that is the most concise and true comment ever! Yes.. we recognise characteristic behaviours, but the levels of flexibility, obsession etc all varies! I have 6 students with autism ina class of 11 and they are as individual as any group of mainstream youngsters!

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