These are simple yet effective changes you can make to benefit all students.
1. Concrete Communication
2. The Environment
3. Routine and Consistency
5. Personal Engagement
6. Emotional Regulation
The key to effectively supporting SEND students is communication with the parent and the young person from the outset. School staff have the honour of helping to shape a young person's educational journey and to provide care, support and guidance throughout their time at school. Alongside the child and parent, we are continunally learning and developing strategies to support their transition into adulthood and it is a priviledge to see a young person with SEND flourish and thrive
Hollie Wells - SENDCo of The Highfield School
Find out More?
Here's a few helpful links to webpages that provide a whole range of support, ideas and resources:
Prefer to Watch?
Here's our CPD session on supporting autism in the mainstream classroom by Kerry Ward
Teacher Talk: Autism in Mainstream Education
Welcome to our educational blog. Here we explore all things pertinent to education, discuss current topics and provide tips, from research and educational experts, to aid practice.
According to research, 1 in 59 students within our classrooms are diagnosed with Autism (Waterford: 2022). So what is autism and how can we, in the educational sector, support our students? The National Autism Society define autism as 'a lifelong developmental disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world' but note how it is a 'spectrum condition and affects people in different ways'. Importantly for us all within education, research shows that there is no preferred, clear term to describe an individual with autism. The terms ‘autism’ and ‘on the autism spectrum’ and to a lesser extent, ‘autism spectrum disorder (ASD)’, were consistently found to be favoured within research (Kenny et al., 2015; Pellicano et al., 2014a, 2014b). However, what is crucial is that it is important to speak with your students and indeed parents/carers regarding their child to ensure that you have a clear understanding of the needs and preferences of individuals themselves and to learn how to listen effectively to individuals with autism and their families.
What strategies can we use to aid all our of students but especially those with Autism?
These strategies are taken from a range of articles by the: National Autism Society; Waterford.org and AST Autistic Spectrum Teacher.
1. Concrete Communication. Ensure that the language you use when speaking is clear, concise and direct to the individual student. For example, instead of making a comment like: 'You haven't finished your work' be specific and tell an individual exactly what they need to do to finish: '(Name) You need to add a sentence on .... and then you have completed the task.' Where possible, always try to reinforce verbal instructions with visual aids.
2. The Environment. We can all fall victim to a busy classroom or school but think about the environment you are expecting all students to work in? Is it calm? Or does it cause sensory overload? Children on the autistic spectrum can have hypersensitivity and/or hyposensitivity. Think carefully about things like seating plans and the positive impact they can have upon learning, when right! Be considerate of what it's like to move around your classroom and school - what are the corridors like at transition periods? How noisy is the projector in your room? What is the texture of materials you are working with? Even things like - have you changed your perfume recently? What may not bother you can cause a huge impact upon learning so take a fresh look at your teaching environment and wider school and speak to your students about simple yet effective changes you can put in place.
3. Routine and Consistency. Our schools are full of routines at certain times and locations. For many students, this is key to a successful, happy day, knowing where they are, when and who with. However, lots of students struggle when this routine is changed, unexpectedly. The key here is to try to manage changes to routines to minimise the disruption to students, where possible, use scripts or set phrasing to maintain consistency, for example, 'The rule is...' If you know a change is to occur, explain it (ideally to the students and parents) so that they have time to process and prepare for the changes, in advance.
4. Organisation. Like with routine, organisation can be key to a happy school, classrooms and environments. Think about what structures you can put in place to aid your organisation, often to enable students to transition, with ample time from or between activities. Things like timers / timings can be really effective in aiding students. You might want to use lesson concept maps so every pupil can understand what a topic or singular lesson entails or some teachers may use a lesson schedule so that students can see what they will cover as they work through the tasks. Think about how you structure your lessons and be aware of how this can aid or indeed disrupt the learning if it suddenly changes drastically.
5. Personal Engagement. For me, this is crucial for every student but especially important when aiding your professional relationships between students who are on the autistic spectrum. As mentioned above, be direct and specific in the language you use, speaking personally to them. Discuss with the child and parents/carers what interests they have and where possible, utilise these to build connections between yourself and your students and indeed between students. If a student has a particular interest, where can this be built into the lesson or activity to engage their learning further? I once had a student with autism that refused to write more than three words each lesson. After a discussion with her about her interests, I found out that she had a toy bear that she loved and a passion for animals. As a result, I set her the task of writing from the perspective of the bear to another animal of her choice and she wrote 2 pages! The bear became integral to our lessons and her engagement.
6. Emotional Regulation. Social stories can be a great way to aid all students with their understanding of social situations. Similarly, within schools, modelling to students can be extremely effective in helping a student to clearly see and hear what to do in a certain situation or task. This strategy can be utilised from younger to older students where you model a task or peice of work but explicitly say your thought processes so that the students can see what you are doing and understand how you got there by what you are saying. Be considerate of your task type, movement, activities and opportunities to support sensory overload.
These are just a few of the many changes that we, within the educational sector, can make to aid the learning of all of our students. They are reasonable adjustments that don't need to take hours but will have a positive impact. To find out more, why not have a look at our sources, listen to the podcasts and speak with your own students - what may seem like a little change can have a huge impact!