Ok, here goes…my first ever blog post! I’ve had a think about what I should write and I thought ‘top tips’ would be a good place to start. Mainly because when I started out as a NQT it used to take me a good 2 hours to plan a 45 minute lesson, which half the time I didn’t even get through! So, maybe with a few little tips (which most of the time I am sure are just common sense) I can pass on a little bit of what got me through!
CONSISTENCY, CONSISTENCY, CONSISTENCY!
If ever there was an essential piece of advice for teaching young people with Autism I would say consistency is it! If you put in place a behaviour rule, staff rota, timetable etc make sure you are CONSISTENT! Especially when it comes to behaviour plans…if you say ‘no computer’ until a workstation task is finished, you have to stick to it…believe me, I have made this mistake and paid the consequences! Make sure all your staff are singing from the same hymn sheet so if a student works with a one person on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and somebody different on a Thursday and Friday you have to ensure they follow the same consistent handling plan!
To help with this top tip, document all consistent areas of the classroom and remind staff and students of the rules on a regular basis.
If ambition is the path to success, persistence is the vehicle you arrive in!
Following on from consistency, if you decide to try something new in your classroom make sure you persist to give it a fair try. I was always told ‘it takes 3 weeks to change a behaviour’ and I strongly stand by this. You may implement a new lesson which goes absolutely disastrously on the first attempt – but don’t give up! It may be you need to either keep trying to get staff and students to understand what is expected, or, maybe by making a few very small ammendments you may make it work! I will give you an example…my first attempt at a pizza lesson with an extremely lively and fussy group of autistic students did not go as planned! 1 student didn’t make it into the room, 1 ate all of the ingredients that had been placed on the table as soon as he entered and 1 sat on the floor twiddling his hair the entire lesson. As a team, we pereservered and made it to the end of the term with each and every student participating in pizza making (although not all ate it)…at some point I’ll try to remember to upload the lesson plan.
Have high, but realistic, expectations
I absolute detest when people are excluded from activities because of their ASD. Admittedly, there are some tasks which a person with autism may find difficult, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be exposed to activities and situations as a result. I once heard about a mother who very lovingly avoided all public toilets because her autistic son could not deal with hand dryers, but surely the ideal situation would be to introduce him slowly over time to hand dryers or provide him with a coping mechanism when he hears them, such as ear defenders or a fiddle toy. Please have high expectations for your students and build upon small steps to allow them to reach their potential. Maybe your student who is petrified of assembly won’t sit in there for an hour within the first term, but wouldn’t being able to sit in there for 10 minutes by the end of the year be a massive success?
Communication is key
If you are reading this blog and already have an interest in autism, it will be pretty obvious to you that communication is an area a person with ASD may struggle with. As a facilitator of education, it is essential we provide adequate communication opportunities. I’ll talk at a later date about my love of visual communication, but for now I just advise you inform your class what is happening in their day (a visual schedule is ideal for this), even if it is a last minute change of plan. Make sure your lessons are differentiated to apply to all communication levels.
I could write forever, but think I will stop there for now as feel I may start to waffle and repeat myself! Hope this makes some sense to you all.