- Think about the language that you use when speaking with and/or about neurodivergent learners; each individual will have a different experience. Know the language that individuals prefer to use. Some people prefer the to be referred to as an ‘Autistic person’ rather than a ‘person with Autism’, others might not mind – know the difference and check with them.
- Think about how and whether they want their diagnosis to be shared with others.
- Do neurodivergent students have an opportunity to meet with other like minded students in school? How can you facilitate this?
- Avoid abbreviations and medical language such as ‘ASD’/’ASC’. Autism isn’t a disorder/impairment and should not be spoken about as such.
- Use the Graduated Approach to learning and get student feedback – what’s working/what isn’t for them.
- Recognise the strength of your students, e.g. problem solving skills, pattern recognition and use this to motivate and encourage them. Develop strategies together that will work and be effective.
- Set joint goals together; grades reinforce goals and aren’t a measure of performance.
- Celebrate strengths and achievements, whatever they may look like.
- Does that student benefit from group work/overt praise in front of others? Do others need to be prepared if a neurodivergent student takes over in group work etc. Plan and accommodate for this in a positive way.
- Use social stories/narratives to develop understanding of key concepts/activities etc.
- Accept and respect your students for who they are.
- Think about whether learning can be linked to an interest to engage
- Explain how/why the learning is relevant to them – some students may benefit from support to make the link.
- Work placements – an Autistic student may need more support and guidance on finding a suitable placement. The learner will need to know how to navigate a new building, what the expectations are and who they will be working with. Think about how this could look visually, e.g. using maps/photos of the placement setting. Also, staff at the placement will need to be advised on the needs of the learner and how best to support them.
- **Don’t require or expect eye contact**
- What does their IEP/One Page Profile/Pen Portrait say about them and the provision that they require?
- Ask for help/advice from SENCO or other colleagues when needed.
- Understand and accommodate for sensory processing differences, ensure that you have details of their sensory profile and make sure you have the provision needed.
- Make sure that you have all the resources that you need to support students with a range of differences and needs – speak with your SENCO about this.
- Until systems change and we can nationally explore different ways of demonstrating skills and abilities, we will need to ensure that reasonable adjustments can be made for all students with additional needs who are taking standardised tests/exams. In these situations, these adjustments are known as ‘access arrangements’.
- These adjustments need to be familiar to the learner otherwise they may have a negative impact. Learners will also need to understand any expectations or differences in these circumstances.
- It’s important to include the learner in this process so that there can be a shared understanding of needs and changes in situations that are unfamiliar to them. This will also ensure that all arrangements are suitable and appropriate.
- Often behaviours seen in school are different to those seen at home; it’s important that parents are listened to without judgement. Remember behaviour tells us a lot about a CYP and the parents are always the expert of their child.
- Learn about masking – they CYP may be masking a wide range of their processing differences and behaviours, to ‘fit in’. This can have significantly negative impacts on a CYP’s educational, emotional and social wellbeing and needs to be considered early on.
- Take some time to really observe the student, find ways of communicating with them and understanding them.
- Teach to support different processing styles (visual, auditory and kinaesthetic). Plan activities that suit the learning style of the students that you are working with.
- Is there a different way of doing something? Can you try a different way and ask the students how it felt?
- Normalise differences in the classroom and in society.
- Provide opportunities to engage with neurotypical peers where appropriate – make sure that students understand each other’s differences and know how to work together best.
- Cut down on the need for some students to copy – have objectives printed for students who need it and homework labels to stick in planners.
- Welcome different ways of working – modify and adapt.
- Develop an equitable
- Think about movement breaks and the impact of sensory overload and dysregulation on students.
- Does the student have an escape plan if things get too much – make sure that there is one in place so that everyone will know what to do if things get too much (time out/quiet space).
- Can a quiet/de-stress space be created in the classroom?
- Ensure that other students have some understanding of why certain students need certain adaptations/resources etc, in a positive and supportive way.
- Say what you want, not what you don’t want! For example, walk sensibly, instead of stop running.
- Don’t just tell me, show me! Include physical/visual demonstrations and examples in explanations.
- Keep language simple and concise – clear and explicit instructions.
- Say when task will end – this could be different for different students.
- Give choices/options where possible, these can be made as visuals where appropriate.
- Rule of 3 – Say the instructions, write the instructions and check that students know what they are doing.
- Reduce information units to make information easier to process. This strategy can be used in a range of ways; think about how learning can be broken down into smaller units, identifying patterns and organising information in way that can make sense to all learners.
- Think about sequential steps in learning and link this previous learning to make new information relevant.
- This method can be applied in so many situations, including delivering new learning but also when explaining processes, giving instructions.
- Be dynamic and creative in your teaching.
- Model work/expectations to students.
- Keep classrooms tidy and clutter free.
- Think about impact of sensory processing differences in your classroom, e.g. lighting, colours, smells, seating. Can any of this be adapted to the preferences and needs of your students?
- Rethink layout/seating plans for some students and ask them for their opinions when making plans.
- Do you have spare resources where possible for those students who struggle with organisation?
- Do you have a selection of wobble cushions/fidget toys etc. for those students who need them?
- DOOM Boxes – understand that these students aren’t messy but genuinely struggle to organise themselves/don’t know how.
- Visual timetables available for all – use these consistently!
- Visual cues and prompts for lessons – key words/symbols/prompts etc. on display for lessons.
- Don’t just tell me, show me!
- Take time to catch up with students and check in.
- Relaxation strategies to settle after transitions.
- Whilst this might be part of the broader school agenda, this can be something that teachers can ensure in their own classroom.
- Make sure that an environment is created where students feel included (could be as simple as welcoming students/catching up with them etc.)
- Create an environment where it’s safe to learn/make mistakes and challenge/seek clarity when learning doesn’t make sense.
- Teachers should consider their body language, expectations of students and be consistent.
- Listen to student voice. No decision about me without me!
- Model making mistakes so that students know/understand that this happens to everyone/everything doesn’t have to be perfect all of the time.
This might be more of a whole school plan – is there any equipment available for students who might need to access different ways of recording, rather than writing, different sized texts/images, different formats of information.
You’ve got this! Surround yourself with supportive, proactive people
Understand what students’ behaviours are really telling you – check for understanding and adapt the support (this behaviour isn’t always purposefully disrespectful or personal, even though it may feel that way).
Whole school changes
Use the Graduated Approach to evidence the strategies trialled and the impact that they have had. This won’t be time wasted or be to the detriment of the CYP; this evidence can be shared with parents and professionals that are working with the child.
- Take advice from professionals but are there are a range of resources for communication that can be created. purchased and used throughout the school, e.g. symbols/visuals.
- There are a range of ICT programmes available to support students who may struggle to record their ideas in writing.
- Ensure that appropriate access arrangements are in place for students with SEND.
- Consider other ways in which CYP can demonstrate their knowledge, rather than relying on traditional written methods.
- Be clear on the strength, skills and knowledge of staff in school.
- Undertake an audit in this regard to inform next steps and plan for training/provision.
- Ensure that support staff are being used appropriately and effectively.
- Autism Champions – do you have one, who could undertake this role?
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