An autism friendly classroom is good for everyone
Written on 18th Aug 2017 by Sylvia Lowery
Many children are facing long waits to receive a diagnosis. The NICE guidelines suggest that a child should only wait three months between referral and diagnosis. These targets are proving difficult to meet. There are cases of children waiting up to six years or longer for a diagnosis. Here are some steps that can be taken by the whole school to help a child while they wait for a diagnosis. These suggestions will help to create a better environment for all learners.
1. Look to meet a child needs rather than waiting for a diagnosis to give support. The ideal approach in schools is for a child to have their needs met within the school resources. There are ways in which a school can make the environment a better space for all children including those who are on the autism spectrum. A quiet room that is available for all children, a number of children may have anxiety or struggles at home. This will provide a safe space and will avoid singling out the children who have SEN.
2. Keep good clear records and diaries of a child’s daily struggles. This will aid professionals and can be used to show the Paediatrician how the child is affected.
3. Provide lunchtime games clubs in school which will help those children who struggle with socialisation to feel safe and also learn to develop friendship’s around interests.
4. A quiet table within the classroom can be a help to learners whilst removing the need for a student to be withdrawn from the classroom.
5. Provide visual timetables for the whole school and if there is a sudden change, make a point of changing the schedule.
6. Create an autism friendly environment, autism awareness week can be used to involve the whole school and can help to create an environment where everyone feels accepted. Ensure that all teachers and school staff receive autism training and are able to recognise the difference between anxiety and misbehaviour. Alex and other speakers on the spectrum can provide an amazing opportunity to raise understand among staff and learners.
7. Work on simple wall displays without too much visual input. It’s important to ask yourself who the display is for. Is it for the teachers and staff or is it for the learners. Work can be displayed in a simple way that uses calming colours and doesn’t overload students on the spectrum.
8. When a noisy day is being arranged provide a quieter alternative and give all leaners a choice as to which they prefer to do. For example you could offer a quieter option for the annual school party.
9. Listen to parents and carers, if a young person is keeping it together in school and having meltdowns at home please don’t blame the home. It is a known phenomena that individuals with autism will keep it together in school and it will come out at home.
10. Create an environment where it is accepted that everyone is an individual. It is not always necessary for all students to be treated the same for it to be fair. The Equality Act makes it clear that treating everybody in the same way does not mean that you are treating them equally (Equality Act, 2010). A simple example of this may be that there are steps into the building. Expecting everyone to climb the steps is treating everyone the same but in reality a wheelchair user would be put in a position where they are treated unequally. Children can learn to accept different treatment if they are given the right tools and learning opportunities and creating this kind of classroom environment is providing them with the skills they need to become compassionate adults. As a family we have family members who have different needs and abilities. Our children have learnt to accept the differences and give help and support when it is needed. We should aim to provide these opportunities within the classroom.
Crown Copyright. (2010). ‘Equality act 2010: Guidance’ [Online], Law and justice system – guidance,Open Government Licence v 3.0, Crown Copyright, Available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/equality-act-2010-guidance (Accessed 9th January 2016).
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