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New article: ‘Let’s Talk Autism’ -a school-based project for students to explore and share their experiences of being autistic
Kathryn Stevenson, Katie Cornell and Vivian Hinchcliffe
Understanding what autism means on a personal level can be an important process for young people on the autistic spectrum, and being able to reflect on this and discuss with autistic peers can be particularly helpful. However, opportunities may be restricted by reluctance to talk about diagnosis and because of difficulties in communication inherent in autism. This article describes a therapeutic media project within an ASD school that attempted to support young people to reflect together about what autism meant for them and create resources to share with others.
The process is described and main themes of discussions analysed using thematic analysis. Main themes emerged of making sense of diagnosis, experiences of difference and transition to adulthood. Various strategies to manage diagnosis and negotiate identity also emerged. Issues around informed consent and confidentiality and the therapeutic value of such groups are discussed.
In this latest issue of the SEND magazine there are articles on Girls with Autism Spectrum, and Mental Health in children with SEND.
£29.99 169pp A4 photocopiable paperback ISBN 978-1-906531-76-8 Buckingham; Hinton House Published 2016
At this time of significant focus and concern about the mental health needs of young people in Britain (as evidenced by the Heads Together campaign www.headstogether.org.uk – led by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge), practical resources that empower teachers to create dynamic curriculum responses are very welcome. Yet again, Tina Rae provides us with such a resource.
In a well-scripted Introduction, Dr Rae scaffolds some key constructs, which build the evidence-base for the subsequent teaching and learning strategies offered in this text. I was particularly taken with her section on ‘The Importance of Positive Emotions.’ Pulling on the seminal work of Seligman, she offers a tried interpretation, in the classroom context, of hope and optimism, flow and happy memories.
Whilst the first and last may have obvious interpretations, it is the concept of ‘flow’ that struck me as having pedagogical relevance to classroom dynamics. Flow is defined as ‘a sense of deep engagement in an activity during which time passes extremely quickly and the individual is able to work at full capacity.’ Engagement is a major platform for building responsive pedagogy in this 21st century (Carpenter et al, 2015), and here the antidote of full authentic engagement in challenging, meaningful learning is pitched against anxiety arising from feelings of disenfranchisement in an alien curriculum.
“Young people are frequently flooded with anxious and negative thoughts and doubts “ states, Tina Rae, and rightly shows how this can lead to a rapid disintegration of their emotional well-being. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), has become a popular therapy for assisting in the restructuring of thought processes, by examining the interface between emotions and our behaviours. Schools will have known of children receiving CBT to promote positive mental health, but it was something carried out by the Psychologist or CAMHS worker. There was no curriculum context for this intervention, and the key tenets were never fully articulated in terms of teaching and learning.
Through a range of photocopiable resources and activities ‘Building Positive Thinking Habits’ goes on to do just that! It confronts the negativity, particularly around self image, that pervades the teenage years of so many young people. Bombarded by destructive negative thoughts and influences from so many angles, a rapid erosion in the mental health state can quickly occur, and direct interventions are crucial. This is where activities such as NATS and PATS can be useful and relevant. How can the power of Positive Automatic Thoughts (PATS) overcome Negative Automatic Thoughts (NATS)?
All of the activities outlined would be of great value to the teachers (as part of tutor time), to SENCOs (for designing specific interventions) and for Teaching Assistants who are often delegated to implement those interventions. Ultimately the ‘Solutions-Focussed Mind’ is the key to increasing self-confidence and resilience in young people. Whilst CBT is only one approach currently available, at long last we have a resource book that explains to teachers what it is, and how it can be useful in schools as a valid, evidence-based intervention, which has a distinctive contribution to make for all Young People.
Professor Barry Carpenter, CBE, Ph.D.
International Educational Consultant September 2016
In this briefing paper, Barry Carpenter looks at who are the children whose mental health are particularly vulnerable, and discusses how the creation of a curriculum around Emotional Well Being, may reduce this significant barrier to achievement. The paper also looks at Mental Health as a pervasive Complex Need in children of all abilities.
Following the work of its Complex Needs Review Group , Chaired by Professor Barry Carpenter, nasen is delighted to announce the publication of the latest free legislative updates to the Complex Needs training materials.
This comprehensive online update sets out the most pressing legal responsibilities above and beyond the Children and Families Act 2014.
Whether you’re a SENCO, teacher, teaching assistant, governor or manager, these slide-based online materials are a rich resource designed with you in mind.
Access the key information that you’ll need for your school and ensure that you meet all of the necessary legal requirements for your setting.