20. Realising the Academic Potential of Primary Aged Child with Autistic Spectrum Disorder

Background This young boy aged 5 years, who had been diagnosed with Autism, was placed in the school’s Pupil Support class by the Additional Support Needs Transition Panel. The Pupil Support class had 5 children with significant additional support needs supported by a Pupil Support teacher and a Support for Learning assistant and offered a calm, focused learning environment with a high level of supervision and support. The child was able to concentrate on things he liked. He knew his colours, could memorise whole stories, count to 20 and enjoyed singing. He was very good at ignoring adults! He fixated on superheroes and was inflexible in his ideas which limited social interaction with his peers . He would not pick up a pencil, had difficulties with noise, change of routine and finishing tasks (particularly leaving the computer). When frustrated he would bite and hit. Solution Focused Approach Staff recognised he was a very quick learner who would benefit from the pace and challenge of mainstream work in order to raise his potential. He was very clever at model making. The school worked closely with the Speech & Language Therapist to develop his social skills, and modify his autistic behaviours so that he would manage mainstream – coping with changes, coping with noise etc. Strategies Key success factors were as follows: • the contributions of the Speech & Language Therapist to planning, providing programmes and resources; • the strong focus on communication and social skills in the Pupil Support class; • the deployment of a Support assistant shared between the two Pupil Support classes to facilitate increased supported integration – flexibility was the key; • the skill of the Pupil Support teacher in supporting mainstream teachers and increasing their skills and confidence; • the planning skills of the Pupil Support teacher – carefully planned integration across two classes for 5 different children is not easy! • the inclusive ethos of the school where difference is accepted; • the willingness of all staff to take risks and try new ways of working. Range of Strategies to Promote Positive Behaviour and Improve Learning • Visual supports to help him manage his day and cope with changes. • Use of Social Stories to support interaction difficulties. • Consistent approaches used by all staff to manage difficult behaviour – eg Smiley Face Chart to ensure good choices are made, Safespace for Time Out. • Gradual build up of time with mainstream class, beginning with Physical Education, then Music, Art and Drama. • Experience of active learning activities in mainstream. • Mainstream children coming to Pupil Support class for Golden Time activities . • Additional Support Needs teacher at times supporting the child in mainstream class. • Building up of more time in mainstream – to include maths and handwriting. • Support from Support assistants gradually reduced. Individualised Planning and a Flexible Curriculum in Line with Curriculum for Excellence • Co-ordinated Support Plan focused on social and communication skills, with significant input from Speech & Language Therapist. • Short term learning targets were very pupil centred and child and parent were involved in the process. • Co-ordinated Support Plan and learning targets were shared with the mainstream teacher so she could support attainment of social/communication skills targets. • Joint planning between Additional Support Needs teacher and Class teacher to facilitate further opportunities for integration. • Active learning opportunities highlighted early on as good opportunities for integration and success noted. • Tight weekly planning timetable to reduce the possibility of unexpected changes. Partnership Working The In-school Support team was very strong and supportive of integration. The school has seen the benefits when children’s behaviours are modified when they work alongside their peers. The significant and consistent support from the Speech & Language Therapist included direct support to the child, input to planning and target-setting, provision of programmes and resources as well as support to parents. She also provided significant input to the development of staff skills. Although it was difficult to maintain regular contact with parents they were invited to termly Individualised Educational Programme meetings as well as regular phone contact and were kept in touch through the home/school book. Successful Outcomes included:
  • the child is now at Primary 3 stage and integrating into mainstream class for more than 50% of the week. He joins his class for all Expressive Arts, maths, written language work including spelling, writing, Circle Time, and whole school assembly;
  • he does not need adult support for many of these activities as his autistic behaviours are much reduced;
  • he has achieved Level A in Reading, Writing and Maths;
  • mainstream teachers’ confidence in having an autistic child in class has increased, often suggesting that no support will be needed;
  • staff collegiality has increased through joint planning and timetabling; younger staff learning from the experience of the Additional Support Needs teacher;
  • the Additional Support Needs teacher’s understanding and knowledge of the mainstream curriculum has increased;
  • teaching and Support staff skills have increased in supporting social and communication difficulties through the support of the Speech & Language Therapy service;
  • the school’s inclusive ethos was further developed throughout the school;
  • children gained more understanding of ‘ difference’;
  • staff understanding of the benefits of integration to all children increased;
  • there were higher expectations of pupils’ attainment;
  • parents’ confidence in the school grew;
  • the school and parents supported each other through sharing successful strategies.
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