Autism Outreach for Schools

VANESSA'S BLOG: DECEMBER - TOP STRATEGIES OF 2020

2020 has been a year that none of us could have predicted and the outreach team have often found ourselves faced with questions we could never have predicted 12 months before. How do we teach a child with autism to socially distance? How do we engage our kids in home learning, when they really want home and school to be kept completely separate? How do we get them back in after 6 months at home? Throughout the pandemic we have tried to keep supporting schools and families in new and different ways, which has been a learning process for all. The website has been a big part of that and it has been really lovely to hear that so many of you find our resource pages useful. For my final blog of 2020, I enlisted the team to have a think about what have been their go-to strategies this year;

Becky

Even in non-COVID times, some of our young people with autism feel unbearable pressure just from being in the school environment. COVID has raised anxiety levels even further for many, so they cannot reasonably be asked to cope with that at the same time as coping with challenging learning. In a lot of cases I have recommended that school reduce the expectations to give these children more capacity to learn to feel comfortable in the environment again, before the levels of academic challenge are reintroduced.  For some children, the best way to reduce expectation is to reduce the challenge level, but keep the general school structure. For others an approach of ‘flexible structure’ is more effective. Click here to see our help sheet about Flexible Structure. 

Emma

Lots of young people have struggles to make the transition back into school.  Their home environment is more comfortable and feels ‘safe’, so it is difficult to make that change after a long time at home. It is important for school staff and parents to recognise that this stems from anxiety, not chosen behaviour.  Good strategies include, softer activities to start the day, using specialist interests to engage a young person, visual preparation for the day, altering timings to avoid a busy transition time and of course ensuring that the child has a trusted adult at school. Click here to see our help sheet about Everyday Transitions 

Christine

Many young people have not had as much time outside during the lockdown, or they are otherwise struggling to return to school and sit at a table all day. Sensory circuits are a great way to prepare young people for learning and to help them to regulate their senses in a positive way. Click here to see our help sheet about Sensory circuits. 

Vanessa

One of the first things I check when I see a new child who is having  a tricky time, is whether the basic strategies are in place. A lot of school staff and parents feel it is going ‘backwards’ to use a strategy that a child had previously grown out of, or something they have not needed before. This simply isn’t the case and the support we give to young people with autism always needs to be reactive to their current circumstances. The more stressful the environment and the newer the routine, the more structure we need to put in to support.  Some children may have previously used the class visual timetable, but with everything so different during the pandemic, they may need an individual one, or even to use a basic now/next.  The same goes for other visual prompts, ‘to do’ lists and Social Stories. There is a lot of information about using basic visual structure on our resources pages here: https://www.freeoutreach.org.uk/Resources/