Once a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been made, the child will automatically be referred to the Autism Team (part of CLCIT - the Complex Learning, Communication and Interaction Team).
A specialist teacher from the Autism Team will visit regularly to advise the school on strategies for helping the child. They will also usually attend review meetings with parents.
What help will my child receive in school?
Because school is a busy, social environment it is usually a difficult place for an autistic child to be.
Every autistic child is an individual and our main task in school is to find out what sort of adaptations we need to make to enable the child to feel as comfortable as possible in school and to learn as well as they can.
Autistic children have the potential to learn, as all children do. Many autistic children make very good progress in school with the right support strategies in place.
Some autistic children will need the close support of a familiar adult for most of the day, to help them to cope with the demands of school (1:1 support).
Other autistic children can cope with the school environment more independently if certain support systems are put in place.
The type of support put in place will be discussed with parents.
Providing for an autistic child in school is a continuous problem-solving process. Sometimes strategies work for a while, then stop working. Things that have been difficult become easier as adaptations are made and then new difficulties emerge.
Parents, teachers, teaching assistants, SENCO and the specialist teacher from the Autism Team will all work together to find ways to overcome the difficulties the child is experiencing.
Every autistic child will need an individualised set of support strategies.
Some of the strategies that we have found most useful include:
Visual support strategies
Because the processing of language is a difficulty for children with ASD, visual representations of ideas are often very helpful for them. In school these might include:
Children with ASD struggle to understand social behaviour and to cope with changes to routine.
Social stories are a way to help them to understand how to behave in certain situations or what is going to happen when there is going to be a change to routine, such as a different teacher or a visit to the dentist.
A social story is a simple outline of what is going to happen or how the child needs to behave in a certain situation that is causing difficulty (such as lining up for dinner or getting changed for PE).
It doesn't have to be a beautifully produced book, but can be quickly scribbled on the back of an envelope if necessary!
Staff in school who are supporting autistic children are trained in how to write social stories and parents can learn how to use them too. They are one of the most useful tools in our toolkit!
Because children with autism find it difficult to understand other people's emotions they are less likely to want to please others, such as parents or teachers. Wanting to please adults is one of the main reasons why children behave as we want them to in school.
With autistic children we often have to find ways to motivate them that are more meaningful to them.
Rewards are often very effective with autistic children, if they are individualised to that particular child. One child might respond to earning superman stickers, another to winning minutes on a computer game or playing with Lego, another to having bubbles blown for them.
Parents' knowledge of what their child will find motivating is invaluable in trying to work out reward systems in school.
It is crucial that reward systems are operated consistently with autistic children if they are to be effective.
Meet and Greet Sessions
Children with autism may find the social environment of school very hard to cope with and arriving at school in the morning, with the bustle of the cloakroom and classroom, can be very unsettling for them.
A Meet and Greet session with a familiar adult is often a way to calm them down and prepare them for the day ahead. It need only take ten minutes, but it can make a real difference to the child's day.
A Meet and Greet session may include:
An autistic child may find it difficult to work in the classroom because of the noise and proximity of other children.
A table where they can work on their own, either inside or outside the classroom is often helpful.
If possible the table should face a blank wall or have some sort of screening round it to minimise the sensory stimulation experienced by the child.
It may have the child's visual timetable and reward charts visible and useful resources, such as timers.