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  They may get angry, obstinate, oppositional, withdrawn, self-harm or disruptive as a reaction to the frustration and stress of not being able to communicate and sort out a problem.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

Rate this blog entry:
3
Recent Comments
Guest — Jane
Great advice Lynne, the workload thing especially so often misunderstood
Wednesday, 08 August 2018 6:06 PM
debbie banfield
Have you any advice on the use of isolation? My son is similar to your second study, leaving school usually during classes or tuto... Read More
Thursday, 20 September 2018 10:10 PM
Lynn McCann
Hello Debbie, I'm sorry I didn't reply earlier. Isolation is a tricky thing because I know some students who prefer to be in a qu... Read More
Saturday, 06 October 2018 1:01 AM
Continue reading
7658 Hits
3 Comments

8 ways to help Autistic pupils manage anxiety

I was born worrying, so my mum said.  I don't really know what it is like not to have a million worries running through my head all at once.  Every conceivable disaster is imagined once my brain focusses on a particular thought - There's a downside to having a wild imagination.

But over the years I have learned a lot about anxiety and have many strategies that work for me in coping with it.  I can manage it.  I can recognise when it comes, what it is and fight it off.   Sometimes it goes quietly, sometimes I'm exhausted after the battle.   But I usually win these days.  Anxiety doesn't control me like it used to.

There's an upside to having a wild imagination too.  I can write stories and get really involved in a fantasy world in books and films.  I love craft and sewing.   And I can empathise when others tell me they are anxious all the time too. Anxiety's energy can be harnessed for good.

When I work with children and young people who are autistic, they often seem anxious and many will tell me that they are...
Rate this blog entry:
5
Recent Comments
Guest — Emma W
Love these posts Lynn! What do you think of Carol Gray's stuff? I've found Comic Strip Conversations useful (similar idea to Emoti... Read More
Saturday, 22 April 2017 9:09 PM
Lynn McCann
Yes Emma, I use social stories and comic strip conversations all the time - I should do a post just about them! There is a chapte... Read More
Sunday, 23 April 2017 7:07 AM
Ines Lawlor
Great Blog- I also feel anxiety is a huge issue for children with Autism which really exacerbates any sensory processing difficult... Read More
Tuesday, 25 April 2017 11:11 AM
Continue reading
16390 Hits
4 Comments

What makes transition work for Autistic pupils?

image from https://tentotwenty.com

Autistic pupils can find everyday transitions difficult, as well as the major transitions that happen. The reasons can include:

  • Not being told what the change will involve,
  • What will be expected of them,
  • How long it's going to last,
  • Perceived or real sensory challenges,
  • Not being given time enough to process the changes or enough information to do so
  • Being so engrossed and comfortable in what they are doing that they cannot seem to switch attention and move to somewhere else,

Transitions can cause a lot of anxiety.

If you're involved in supporting children with every day transitions and often a visual timetable used correctly (see my blog post here) can help enormously and give the pupil some interaction and choices when appropriate. Giving them time to process and information about what to expect is important.  An example is a child who hated lining up because he didn't know where he was going.  He did everything he can to avoid lining up, such as hitting others in the hope he'd be made to stay behind.  For him, we worked with him to ask "Where are we going?";  So he didn't have to rely on an adult telling him and he felt less anxious and more in control. 

But what about the major transition of moving to the next class or from Primary to Secondary School...

Rate this blog entry:
4
Recent Comments
Guest — Christine
As a home tutor attached to a PRU, I work with several autistic students for whom transition to secondary has not worked, for many... Read More
Monday, 25 April 2016 10:10 AM
Lynn McCann
Thanks for commenting Christine. It is always interesting to hear of other's experiences. 'Robust' is indeed a good word to use f... Read More
Monday, 25 April 2016 8:08 PM
claire
Hi Lynn, I recently listened to your talk at the ASD Exhibition in London. It was great!! You mentioned you were putting the power... Read More
Thursday, 21 June 2018 9:09 AM
Continue reading
11341 Hits
4 Comments

5 things to know when supporting Autistic students in FE

At the beginning of January I was invited to Cardiff and Vale College to do a workshop about supporting autistic students at 6th Form college.  Cardiff and Vale college support students between the ages of 16-18 and beyond, including adult learners and in many different subjects, courses and situations.  

Obviously, all autistic students are different and telling them all I wanted to share in just 90 minutes was a struggle.  So I put this information together wanted to also share this with you on our blog.  

I've organised it to tell you 5 key things I want you to know about autistic learners in FE colleges... 

Rate this blog entry:
1
Continue reading
679 Hits
0 Comments

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 are autisitc then primary teachers want the same things for those children.   But an autisitc child 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. 

Rate this blog entry:
1
Continue reading
1545 Hits
0 Comments

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 autistic pupils 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...

Rate this blog entry:
8
Recent Comments
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
Continue reading
20421 Hits
4 Comments

Why look for girls on the spectrum in school?

This guest blog is from Joanna Grace who I first knew through her start up of the Sensory Project in 2010.  I liked what she was proposing to do and I pitched in a tenner towards it and watched how (thanks to much more generous people than me) the Sensory Projects have grown. In her own words:

Joanna Grace is a Sensory Engagement and Inclusion Specialist, Trainer, Author, TEDx speaker and Founder of The Sensory Projects.

Consistently rated as Outstanding by Ofsted Joanna has taught in mainstream and special school settings, connecting with pupils of all ages and abilities. Since launching The Sensory Projects Joanna's work has extended into adult care for people with complex needs and dementia. To inform her work Joanna draws on her own experience from her private and professional life as well as taking in all the information she can from the research archives. Joanna's private life includes family members with disabilities and neurodiverse conditions and time spent as a registered foster carer for children with profound disabilities.

Joanna's books Sensory Stories for children and teens , Sensory-being for Sensory Beings and Sharing Sensory Stories with People with Dementia sell globally. She has a further four books due for publication within the next two years, including two children's books.

Joanna is a big fan of social media and is always happy to connect with people via Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin

In this blog she tells us why it is so important to be looking for girls who may be on the autistic spectrum...

Rate this blog entry:
4
Continue reading
4216 Hits
0 Comments

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. 

Rate this blog entry:
8
Recent Comments
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
Su Seymour
Please don't have white tables or white tablecloths. Myself and many other adults with autism can't stand glare of white things x
Tuesday, 12 February 2019 2:02 AM
Continue reading
4314 Hits
2 Comments

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".

Rate this blog entry:
3
Recent Comments
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
Crette
My 13 year old son has been diagnosed with Autism, ADHD and ODD...but none of the diagnosis’s seemed to match his behaviour until ... Read More
Wednesday, 17 October 2018 1:01 PM
Continue reading
10722 Hits
3 Comments

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....

Rate this blog entry:
1
Recent Comments
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
Continue reading
5904 Hits
2 Comments