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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds I think I’d like to go back to when I first really came across the idea of autism and alive that I was sent to an SEMH school, a residential SEMH school to do an annual review and a boy that I’ve never met before knew nothing about him really, other than what was in the file. And I went to visit him and when I arrived, the key worker said to me he’s expecting you he’s in the dining hall but he’s wearing his boiler suit and I said, ‘oh, okay…’

Skip to 0 minutes and 32 seconds and he said ‘yeah he always wears his boiler suit when he’s meeting people he doesn’t know, doesn’t like that very much and he always puts on the same suit’ and I said ‘ok, that’s fine’ I went to meet him and he was an interesting boy I thought. He was quite uncomfortable in terms of being with somebody that he hadn’t met before.

Skip to 0 minutes and 52 seconds I struggled really to get any connection with him and I found it quite hard work until I asked him what he was interested in and he said well Dungeons and Dragons which at that time was the original Minecraft and he was absolutely passionate about it and because I knew a little bit about it we were able to have quite a long conversation about dungeons and dragons. So I met him there, spoke to him and later went to visit is his dad at home away from the school and we were talking about how his dad saw his son and he said ‘I really don’t understand him.

Skip to 1 minute and 30 seconds In my world everything I do depends on me making friends making connections talking to people being interested in people and he just isn’t. He has no interest in other people and he’s not bothered by the fact that he doesn’t seem to have any friends and I really don’t understand why that is’. So I went back to the office and I had to think about it and I was sort of noting down the things that I’d noticed and thought about and I thought well his social interaction with a little bit odd, it was quite unusual. He was obviously uncomfortable being with somebody didn’t know.

Skip to 2 minutes and 2 seconds His communication style, until we got going and talked about something he was really interested in, was not very good and he wasn’t showing much eye contact, he wasn’t paying much attention to what I was saying, really wasn’t interested in what I thought about anything, so there wasn’t a lot of reciprocity, so I was a bit puzzled by that I was thinking okay so he was actually very, very interested in Dungeons and Dragons but that was a bit obsessive and then the sensory issues - I couldn’t quite make sense of the boiler suit, but it felt to me as if he was trying to protect himself from the world.

Skip to 2 minutes and 37 seconds And I was thinking about what dad was saying about him not being interested in other people and friendships and how it didn’t bother him and as I thought about it I thought okay, so we’ve got communication, we’ve got interaction we’ve got something to do with rigidity and routine and obsessional interest perhaps, which I wasn’t calling it at that point and then there were these sensory issues that were just creeping in and as I’ve looked back on that meeting, because at the time I had no way of conceptualising what those difficulties were all about, it became more and more apparent to me that I’ve met a young man with Asperger’s as we would call it now whose difficulties fitted within what we call a triad really of difficulty, which affected social communication, his social interaction a need or a preference for sameness and some difficulties around some sensory issues, but in 1991 there wasn’t a lot of understanding about that.

Skip to 3 minutes and 32 seconds Autism existed, but there wasn’t a great deal of knowledge base out there, particularly with young people who were perhaps more cognitively able. I think there was a very traditional model of young people with autism having severe learning difficulties but I don’t think there was the recognition that young people who are of average cognitive ability could actually be experiencing some of those difficulties.

Skip to 3 minutes and 55 seconds So I was really quite taken with looking back and thinking about that experience and how things have moved on and how helpful I think the father of that boy would have been helped in terms of understanding that his child wasn’t choosing to be difficult, he wasn’t choosing to disengage, he actually wasn’t driven in the way that are the young people were to engage socially. So that was my starting point and ever since then I think I’ve had an ongoing interest in autism and whatever it’s called, autism Asperger’s, ASD, ASC, they all come back to that same core set of difficulties which make interacting with the social world and understanding social world, more challenging for them.

Skip to 4 minutes and 38 seconds So, what I wanted to think about next, really, is what do we expect young people to be able to do, which might in itself be more challenging for young people who have autism and as I’ve thought about us over time I’ve become more and more aware of the things that we just anticipate children are going to be able to do without being taught, so we expect them to be interested in other people, we expect them to come into school wanting to be with other young people, we expecting to want to make relationships, we expect them to be able to think about the thoughts and feelings of other people, to be able to think about their own thoughts and feelings, to be able to think about their emotions and I’m very aware that for many young people with autism, all of those things present great great challenges in terms of what we expect them to do in the school environment we’re expecting them to manage a whole set of unspoken demands from knocking on the door before you walk in to not over speaking somebody and interrupting them as they’re talking and I think for a lot of young people with autism, there isn’t enough direct teaching of the skills that they need in order to function alongside their peers and I think the environment of schools can sometimes be incredibly demanding and taxing for them I think it presents a huge challenge in terms of sensory overload in terms of just being with the other young people who do get the social rules where they don’t and I think they’re often on catch-up and often puzzled by the behaviours of others and unable to make good sense of why people are behaving the way they do and that in itself is a challenge for them and I think young people who are when they’re challenged become quite stressed and sometimes that stress can show itself either through behaviour or through huge levels of anxiety and lots of young people I work with are hugely, hugely anxious and that really impairs their functioning.

Skip to 6 minutes and 29 seconds When I’m working with young people with autism now, I suppose when I think back to meeting that first young man, I’m always very aware of even the most basic things, so I’ll think about what I’m wearing and I’m very aware that sometimes a busy pattern can actually be very distracting or quite overwhelming for young person with autism. I might think about perfume; is that a good thing to put it on as somebody’s going to have huge sensory issues around smells? So I might decide not to wear perfume.

Skip to 7 minutes and 2 seconds I might wear the same thing if I’m going back to see them next time because I’m aware that sometimes young people with autism are not good at facial recognition and they might need other cues to recognise and remember Who I am and what I’m there to do. If I meet a young person at the start of any session, I’ll explain Who I am and what I’m going to do and sometimes I’ll do a timetable I’ll sketch out something, I’ll say first we’re going to do this, then we’re going to have a look at that and then you’re going to have a break and then we’re going to come back and I’ll leave it there for them to look at, because one of the difficulties can be that too much verbal information is quite difficult for young people with autism to keep up with and they really struggle to retain and process that information, so things being presented visually can be very, very helpful for them.

Skip to 7 minutes and 50 seconds I might start with an activity I know they’re going to be good at to try and reduce their anxiety; I might know something about their interests before I meet them so that I can use that as a backstop if things get a little bit tricky; I might have a photo on my phone of something I know they’re interested in - we might use that as a little diversion. If I give them something challenging to do, I might follow that up with something that I know will be less challenging and more relaxing for them so that they’re not left feeling anxious.

Skip to 8 minutes and 19 seconds If I say to them ‘you’re on fire, that’s great’, I have to check out that they know what ‘your on fire’ means, because I don’t want them to think that literally they’re on fire and I think part of that is about allowing yourself to be yourself but also always making sure that what you’re saying is accessible to the young person that you’re working with and to do that you really do need to know that young person very well and to understand how their autism, alongside all the other things that make them who they are, how their autism impacts on their functioning.

What is the impact of ASD for pupils in the classroom?

If you are a professional who works with pupils on the autism spectrum, you must gain a good understanding of how that person views the world and what they perceive their needs to be. Knowing what causes challenging behaviour can help you to develop ways of dealing with it.

This step will ask you to reflect on the types of behaviour that are commonly associated with students who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The video is of Sue Jamieson, an educational psychologist, who describes her experiences with children who have ASD and goes on to describe some of the triggers and behaviours that can impact on the teaching and learning of students. Use the video as a prompt to help you reflect on experiences you have had in your setting with your students.

Further steps will provide insights into the causes and common effects of ASD. We will then ask you to consider the potential usefulness of strategies designed to support pupils with ASD. You will be invited to consider individual pupil needs and select the strategies that you think will work best for you and your students.

Watch the video and use the ‘Reflections on ASD’ table in your workbook to reflect and record the impact ASD has on students in your setting.

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This video is from the free online course:

Challenging Behaviour: Strategies for Helping Young People

Ambition School Leadership