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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

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  They may get angry, obstinate, oppositional, withdrawn, self-harm or disruptive as a reaction to the frustration and stress of not being able to communicate and sort out a problem.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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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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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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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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