100 Ideas for Supporting Pupils on the Autistic Spectrum – Francine Brower
With more and more areas becoming committed to inclusive schooling, more teachers and school professionals are going to have autistic students in their classes. In the UK, unless teachers are on a specific Special Educational Needs PGCE, the amount of training they will receive throughout the year specifically on Special Educational Needs will amount to somewhere between half a day and a day on average. Of course Special Educational Needs doesn’t just cover autism, so that means that there’s going to be less than that dedicated to the topic of autism.
So inevitably one of two things will happen – either the teacher will decide to just leave the teaching of the autistic student as the responsibility of the 1:1 support staff (if the student has that support) or they will seek out further information themselves in the form of books like the above.
Another cause of anxiety for a pupil with autism can be associated with supply teachers. The need for sameness, routine and predictability means that facing a new person at the front of the class or as support brings confusion and uncertainty. The pupil needs to be helped to cope with such change.
This book is divided up loosely into sections labelled as follows:
- Enhancing understanding
- Enabling communication
- Developing social skills
- Creating the right environment
- Coping strategies
- Establishing foundations for learning
- Tackling the curriculum
- Facing the challenge of change
Within each section are pages which briefly cover topics within those sections, such as ‘Never take it personally’, ‘Putting communication in context’, and ‘I’ve finished my work, sir”.
I have often heard the protest from staff, ‘There were no triggers for his behaviour.’ But there is always a trigger, a reason, for the response of the pupil on the autistic spectrum. The problem is that we are not always able to identify it. One helpful way forward with this is to have someone act as a ‘fly on the wall’, carefully observing and listening to identify what may cause the negative reaction.
Despite the fact that rarely is more than a page given to each individual topic, there is a surprising amount of information contained within this book to help both teachers and teaching assistants. Within the short space afforded it even provides some examples of things such as cue cards and how to send messages home in a way that will be meaningful for the autistic student. Obviously it doesn’t go into great depths and provide a variety of examples of things like visual schedules or social stories or how to help a student develop life skills or social skills, but it does provide a good place to start.
The advice in this book is primarily aimed at assisting autistic students who are fairly communicative and receptive, those who will be accessing most of the same curriculum as their peers. There is not a lot in the way of advise for helping students who have little functional communication, who have a largely differentiated curriculum, and who need a lot of day to day assistance.
Is it worth reading?
If you are a teacher or teaching assistant who has an autistic student in their class, or wants to be prepared for when you do teach an autistic student then this book is a reasonable place to start. It doesn’t cover things in depth, but it does cover a lot of things. For autistic people or parents of autistic students, whilst this book might have a few pieces of advice, it is probably not as useful.