“Being autistic is not necessarily disabling,” explains Dr Luke Beardon in Tes “Instead, it is a disadvantage. And is that disadvantage a result of being autistic, or is it a result of being in a certain environment?”
Dr Beardon is certain it is the latter. He is a senior lecturer working within The Autism Centre at Sheffield Hallam University and on this week’s Podagogy podcast he explains why he believes autistic children have an unnecessarily challenging time in school.
“Being a teacher and having that level of expectation to engage with the autistic community without really good solid levels of support is massively unfair on the teacher, the child and the family,” he explains. “But there is no doubt we are failing these kids.”
“You will never get one thing that works for all autistic people. It is all about understanding that the person is autistic, understanding that this means that the majority of the standard ways you teach may not be effective, and then trying to adapt those ways of teaching to an individual autistic need.”
“You get some autistic children who adopt masking behaviour to get by during the day, but that does not dispel the underlying anxiety they are feeling at school. So what is going on behind the scenes may be very different to what the teacher sees and that child may go home and wreck the house as their anxiety has hit a level they just cannot deal with.”
There are practical processes that schools can abide by that ensure the autistic child’s needs are met, argues Beardon, and he groups these as three golden rules.
Autism plus the environment equals the outcome. That outcome might be positive or negative, but the person who is autistic remains the same, it is the environment that leads to the outcome. So if you want a successful outcome, and you recognise the person with autism cannot change their brain, then the only thing you can change is the environment. And that often, but not always, means the people within that environment.
Read the full article and listen to the podcast. Three golden rules for supporting autistic pupils
Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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