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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. 

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  They may get angry, obstinate, oppositional, withdrawn, self-harm or disruptive as a reaction to the frustration and stress of not being able to communicate and sort out a problem.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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Guest — Jane
Great advice Lynne, the workload thing especially so often misunderstood
Wednesday, 08 August 2018 6:06 PM
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Sensory Overload from an Adult Professional perspective.

Photo from Reachout ASC conference

​Do we think beyond our autistic pupils and wonder if teaching staff or other professionals may be grown up autistic people?  Sensory overload, social confusion and other differences don't go away, but many autistic adults spend a lot of time and energy trying to 'mask' their difficulties in busy, demanding environments.  This anonymous account from an autistic professional explains why we should make more accommodations so that we can all work better together.  Hope we can all think to ask "What can help?"

Here is their account:

Last week I attended a conference for professionals in education.  It was an amazing event; inspiring, exciting and thought provoking.  There was only one problem. I spent most the day in sensory overload.

If you looked at me sitting on the outskirts of the conference, not making eye contact, not joining conversation what assumptions would you make?  That I don't want to be there?  That I'm aloof? Unfriendly?   What you don't see, what you don't understand is that I am in sensory over load, fighting to keep myself together and maintain some sort of integrity. 

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Guest — Arvinder Singh Paul
Heartfelt post and very much needed. Professionals in conferences need to make autistic professional more welcome and put in place... Read More
Friday, 20 October 2017 9:09 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 have autism then primary teachers want the same things for those children.   But a child with autism 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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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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Steph Curtis
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
Lynn McCann
It's a pleasure. You blog has taught me a lot.
Friday, 26 January 2018 9:09 PM
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Autism and Group Interactions

I have an autistic friend who is a maths teacher (amongst her other talents). She has a great way of explaining what being autistic is like and we often talk about the apparent anomaly between her confidence in speaking to someone 1:1 or to a whole group of students, as opposed to being in a group or party situation with lots of people to interact with. I love how she describes it....

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Susan Owen
Great article and useful for me as SENCO
Saturday, 13 January 2018 11:11 AM
Lynn McCann
That's great - I hope you will have a look at the other articles on this site and find them useful too :-)
Saturday, 13 January 2018 2:02 PM
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What I’ve learned about SEND in 2017 and what I’d like to see in 2018

Yesterday was January 1st 2018 and it was my birthday…well the 4th Birthday of Reachout ASC.  This time four years ago I'd only just left my school and started a new business.  There wasn't much rest that Christmas holiday,  I can tell you!  I end 2017 with a team of three people who help Reachout ASC be all it is.  Emma Turver is the other specialist teacher, doing the same work as I do and being very good at it.   Meriel is our administrator and can do in 3 minutes what would take me 3 hours to do, and Cristina is our newest member of the team, working as our office assistant.   She is an Aspie and we will be writing a blog together about employing autistic people later in the year.

Working in and with many different schools has given me the opportunity to see how education, and specifically SEND reforms are working in real life.   I deliver training to SENCOs and staff from all over the north of England and here many stories from many people.   2014 wasn't only the birth of Reachout ASC, but also the birth of the new SEND Code of Practice, since revised in 2015.    The landscape for children, parents, SENCOs and school provision has changed in many ways, and in other ways hasn't changed at all.  I'd certainly recommend reading posts from Special Needs Jungle to keep up to date with the national picture.

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Autism and Christmas – Teachers are you ready?

Ok teachers this is THE half term when I get so many more emails about autistic pupils in school and their behaviour.   I wanted to warn you all and help you get ready….but not for the challenging behaviour,  no,  it's supporting your pupils with autism at this time of year that I want to help you with so that the chances of their behaviour changing is lessened.

Of course, the culprit, the trigger for behaviour at this time of year is most likely to be Christmas…not Christmas itself…but the way we DO Christmas.

This is what happens in most primary schools...

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Guest — Cathy Porter
adding to the social story about decorations going up & why we use them, think it's also quite important to include explanations a... Read More
Monday, 31 October 2016 9:09 AM
Fiona Lloyd
Don't insist pupils engage with Santa if they don't want to - if possible, make sure Santa understands this in advance! I'd also s... Read More
Monday, 31 October 2016 7:07 PM
Guest — Alice Soule
You're so right! I try and avoid too many Christmas oriented activities or fetes with my son as I know how much it is focused on w... Read More
Monday, 31 October 2016 10:10 PM
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SEND children are being damaged by our education system, it's not their fault.

image from https://goo.gl/JU5p2R

There is something I've noticed as I travel around schools supporting pupils with autism and their teachers.

Autistic children are unhappy in school. Very unhappy. Many of them show this in their behaviour, and it's often because of their behaviour that I'm asked to help.   I work with PRUs.  They are receiving more and more children, younger and younger who are permanently excluded from mainstream schools.  They are traumatised at an early age.  Older children too are school refusing,  being excluded and let down.  Too many are not getting the help, support and life chances they need and deserve. 

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Guest — Sarah HB
I'm in the same position as you Lynn even down to history and experiences. It truly is a scandal.The thing I find most disturbing ... Read More
Saturday, 14 October 2017 9:09 PM
Guest — Steph Curtis
Totally agree. The system needs a huge overhaul - for the sake of all cgi,Daren, not just those with #SEND! But the #SEND children... Read More
Saturday, 14 October 2017 11:11 PM
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What is a sensory diet and how do I implement one in my busy classroom?

Image from: Let's Talk Autism course by Lynn McCann

​ Many autistic children have Sensory Processing Disorders. (And so do children with Down's Syndrome, ADHD and other or no other conditions). Their sensory systems (as above) can be hyper (over) or hypo (under) sensitive and this affects the way that they understand, perceive and interact with the world around them.  It also affects their perception of their own bodies and how they function.  And I'm often asked whether the sensory responses can be different on different days – yes, they can.  Some sensory responses can be hyper and some hypo – in the same person.

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Guest — Steph
Fabulous site
Sunday, 25 February 2018 7:07 PM
Lynn McCann
Thank you. It's nearly ready for a bit of a tidy up but its a work in progress!
Monday, 26 February 2018 1:01 PM
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Preparing an autism friendly secondary classroom

Photo from Ann Memmott www.annsautismblog.com showing what visual hyper-sensitivity can be like in a classroom.

As I promised, here are my tips for secondary teachers getting ready for the next school year.  There are likely to be a number of students with autism or other SEND needs coming into your classes this year and I want to share some of the tips and advice that I would usually pass on to secondary teachers.

Emma and I work with around ten secondary schools and our support looks very different from the work we do with primaries.  The differences in the way a secondary school works brings up additional challenges for the school SENCO and for individual teachers.

Firstly, the movement between lessons, having up to six different teachers each day and the responsibility of being organised, on time for lessons and doing homework are major challenges for autistic / SEND pupils.  On top of that is the minefield of social relationships, especially in Year 7 when children are meeting lots of new children from different feeder primaries and everyone is working out new relationships and friendships.   I'm not going to go into all the challenges and issues in this blog, but give teachers some tips on how they can make their classrooms and lessons autism/SEND friendly and a little bit of advice for a whole school approach that really makes a huge difference. 

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