The full report can be found by visiting www.autism.org.uk
According to the report, 74% of parents found it difficult to access the services their child requires. Children with autism have different learning styles. Their teachers and therapists often have to think outside the box in order to be able to come up with novel or alternative methods to support learning within the classroom. Over the years I have been working with schools, I have found that too often we overlook the significant differences in communication that our children face and this is the sticking point that makes learning within the classroom environment different, difficult or engaging. If we can identify the best ways of communicating with individual students, we can make learning a lot more engaging and effective. Work with your Speech and Language Therapist to identify communication style and decide what works best for your student/child.
Autism First is working hard this school year to get into the classrooms with teachers. We hope to work closely with the teacher to embed communication support within learning activities and lesson planning to boost access to information and provide students with a means of expressing their thoughts and ideas most effectively. We already have two volunteer classes within secondary school who want to work more closely with us and I am thrilled to be meeting with them this week to get the ball rolling.
What makes an autism friendly classroom?
For years the term autism friendly or communication friendly has been shared amongst the speech and language and education professions. We all have different ideas about what these terms actually mean and there is a growing body of evidence within journals that support us understand the terms. My top tips for teachers this year include:
1. Get back to basics: keep adult talk to a minimum and use multi-media and kinaesthetic (hands on) approaches to teaching something new. Understanding comes from experience and for students with an ASD the more opportunity they get to explore something through the senses, the more likely they are to capture an understanding of the information.
2. Be explicit: state why you are doing something and what the student will gain from the experience. Show the class what they are doing within the whole lesson using a learning journey. This could be represented as a stairway on the board at the start of each lesson. Being prepared and visually seeing what will happen can be a great way to reduce stress and anxiety for our students.
3. Plan for movement and sensory breaks: break up lessons into smaller chunks and give students an option to take a break that is appropriate to your classroom. Theraband, fidgets or even a crunchy snack can be effective at supporting students to engage for more sustained periods of activity within the class.
4. Reduce demands: larger texts or passages can be shortened with an overview or key summary provided to students supporting them to understand the key points. It can be better to be more confident about a little of something than have a little knowledge about a lot!
5. Ask your student. We all learn differently in different environments and we all find some subject matter easier to understand than others. Ask your student's what they need to help them within each lesson. There will be times when your student is more sensitive than others and this may effect their usual learning capacity for information. Meet them where they are on any particular day.
if you are interested in developing your professional skills in working with a specialist in the classroom, please get in touch and we will be happy to discuss your needs further.