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 They may get angry, obstinate, oppositional, withdrawn, self-harm or disruptive as a reaction to the frustration and stress of not being able to communicate and sort out a problem.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