“Let’s Talk Autism”

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.

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Supporting Girls on the Autism Spectrum

Supporting girls on the autism spectrum.

Barry Carpenter and Jo Egerton

Nasen, the UK’s leading organisation supporting those who work with or care for children and young people with special and additional educational needs and disabilities (SEND), has launched a free miniguide to supporting girls with autism spectrum conditions/disorder (ASC/ASD).

Girls and Autism: Flying under the radar, is a 20-page full-colour guide designed to alert busy teachers to the hidden struggles of girls with ASC/ASD. Misunderstanding of their support needs, it suggests, may lead to unnecessary school exclusion and mental health disorders.

Behaviours stereotypically associated with autism are now widely recognised by most teachers – the high-intensity interests (e.g. trains, mechanisms, dinosaurs) and the self-regulatory and anxiety-associated behaviours (e.g. flapping, jumping, resonating noises, meltdowns). However, now researchers are warning that these behaviours are not equally indicative of ASC/ASD in both boys and girls.

‘Ironically, it seems we, as professionals, have been over-focused on the detail and not seen the bigger picture,’ says co-author Jo Egerton. ‘It is not the object of interest that is key, but the extreme intensity and duration of interest that sets girls and boys with autism apart from their typically developing peers.’

A young girl with autism may, for example, collect hundreds of identical pictures of her favourite pop star or develop an unusually encyclopaedic knowledge of fashion, Egerton says.

‘Rather than externalising their ASC behaviours, it seems that girls are more likely than their male peers to suppress them, to assiduously study and copy peers’ socially acceptable behaviours, and to adopt more internalised and invisible relief from stress (e.g. self-harm, eating disorders).’

This means that their ASC/ASD is likely to go unnoticed, she adds, unless their school knows how girls with autism ‘fly under the radar’.

The Girls and Autism miniguide – which comes out of the UK’s National Association of Head Teachers’ Autism and Girls Forum chaired by Professor Barry Carpenter CBE – is a first step for teachers in becoming more informed. It introduces the debate around autism and gender; identifies key issues for girls with ASC/ASD; provides practical school-based support strategies; shares family, professional and academic perspectives; and signposts further reading.

‘Our challenge in schools is to evolve a curriculum and pedagogy that are responsive to our new understanding of girls with ASC/ASD and their specific needs,’ Professor Carpenter says. ‘This will involve a process of inquiry, to investigate and explore, for and with the girls, how best their needs can be met.’

You can download your free copy of Girls and Autism: Flying under the radar here.

For the National Conference on Girls on the Autism Spectrum ; The BIG Shout, to be held in London on 27th January 2017.please click here http://www.naht.org.uk/welcome/naht-events/conferences/girls-on-the-autism-spectrum-the-big-shout-conference/

Girls on the Autism Spectrum; The Big Shout

27 January 2017, London

There is shared concern among parents, schools, families and professionals about the vulnerability of girls on the Autistic Spectrum. What is emerging is that the presentation of autism in girls is different to boys; yet many of our diagnostic and therapeutic approaches, and interventions in education and psychology, are based on research conducted with predominantly male populations. This conference brings together school leaders, teachers, health professionals, parents and carers with high profile speakers and experts, including:

  • Carrie Grant, TV vocal coach and campaigner who will give a parent’s perspective.
  • Francesca Happé, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and Director of the MRC Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London. Her research focuses on strengths and difficulties in autism spectrum conditions. She is co-founder (with Dr Rona Tutt OBE and Professor Barry Carpenter CBE) of the National Forum for Neuroscience and Special Education.

The conference will give delegates an insight of the experiences of girls on the Autism Spectrum; and prepare a ‘Call for Action’ to highlight future areas for development. to see full details and to book please click here: http://www.naht.org.uk/welcome/naht-events/conferences/girls-on-the-autism-spectrum-the-big-shout-conference/

Conference fees
Early Bird rate for all registrations – £99
(Please note that Early Bird rates are applicable to the first 50 applications received.)
NAHT Member rate – £125
Non-member rate – £150
Parent/Carer rate – £125.

“Girls with Autism; flying under the radar” – a new mini guide for schools and child based services.

To mark World Autism Awareness Day, nasen has launched a new mini – guide highlighting the needs of girls with , or without a diagnosis of Autism. Written by Jo Egerton and Barry Carpenter, with contributions from the Girls with ASC Working Party, the guide is a free download to schools and services.

The guide aims to articulate the current needs and issues surrounding girls with Autism . They are an under-diagnosed group , whose needs often go unmet in schools , and whose mental health in the teenage years often rapidly deteriorates. The Working Party, chaired by Professor Carpenter, realised that they did not have a common language to express these concerns, and their goal in preparing this Guide has been to improve the foundation knowledge and understanding in schools and other child based settings.

As their work drew to a conclusion, they realised that there was so much more to do . The Group will continue its work under the auspices of the National Association of Headteachers, and specifically the National Forum for Neuroscience in Special Education (www.naht.org.uk ). This will include a major National Conference in London early in 2017; detail will be posted on this website.

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Girls and Autism - Flying Under the Radar - PDF
Girls and Autism – Flying Under the Radar

Anxiety & Autism

Even though mental illness can be more common among autistic people than the general population, the mental health of people on the autism spectrum is often overlooked.

The National Autistic Society provides a range of information and advice on dealing with mental health issues and anxiety, which can be found on our website.

http://www.autism.org.uk/about/health/mental-health

The Engagement for Learning Framework:connecting with learning and evidencing progress for children with autism spectrum conditions

 

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Housing for people with Learning Disabilities; thoughts and opportunities.

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Guardian Article -

 

 

 

 

 

 

Content is also accessbile via the link below:

http://www.theguardian.com/social-care-network/2016/jan/19/learning-disability-care-institutions-atu

Think Piece: How do we teach children with Complex Needs?

The new generation of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), those with complex learning difficulties and disabilities (CLDD), have transformed the special needs registers of our schools in this first part of the 21st century (Carpenter et al., 2015). Many of these children are ‘wired differently’; children born prematurely, particularly those of pre-28 week gestation, are a particular example of this phenomenon (Carpenter and Egerton, 2013). Their profile of learning is not that which we have previously known with children with SEND. This brings unique challenges to teachers, for the neural pathways in the brain of the child with CLDD are connected and routed differently, and they, thus, learn differently. Therefore, in what ways do we teach differently?

This is a debate that is beyond differentiation, and takes us into the realms of new generation pedagogy, where personalisation becomes an essential component of the differentiated process of meeting individual needs.

Key to this pedagogy – ‘how’ we teach – is engagement (Carpenter et al., 2015). For any child of any ability without authentic engagement in learning there will be no meaningful outcomes, no effective progress, no real attainment. Engagement is the liberation of intrinsic motivation and the pathway to achievement. The engagement principle, delivered through the Engagement Profile and Scale (http://complexld.ssatrust.org.uk), enables a teacher to co – produce with the child, a truly responsive learning programme. This will style itself in ways appropriate to the presentation of the child’s complex needs. Autism, for example, is not merely the ‘classic’ presentation we knew in the late twentieth century, but now has multiple causal bases, all of which generate specific learning styles. Again, engagement can be key to ensuring high quality, responsive teaching (Carpenter et al., 2016).

From the extensive Department for Education-funded research conducted in the UK by Carpenter and colleagues, a range of resources were produced and are located on http://complexld.ssatrust.org.uk. Similarly the 16 modules written to support teacher training in the area of complex needs – ‘Training Materials for Educators of Learners with Severe, Profound and Complex Learning Difficulties’ (www.complexneeds.org.uk) – are now the focus of a European Commission-funded Erasmus+ programme to make these materials more widely available in Europe via a number of European languages to support inclusion practice through accredited vocational learning.

Our challenge in this 21st Century is to create inclusive pedagogy, regardless of setting. There are children entering our schools ‘the likes of which we have never seen before’. Engagement, as a well-researched principle for learning in all children, will be key to that inclusive pedagogy. We need to design a curriculum which wraps around the child with CLDD (Carpenter et al., 2011), and takes that child on a journey of effective teaching to enable us to touch that child at their point of learning need.

Professor Barry Carpenter, January 2016

References

Carpenter, B., Carpenter, J., Egerton, J. and Cockbill, B. (2016) ‘The Engagement for Learning Framework: Connecting with learning and evidencing progress for children with autism spectrum conditions’, Advances in Autism, 2 (1).

Carpenter, B. and Egerton, J. (2013) ‘The impact of prematurity on special educational needs’, Optimus Education (SEN hub). [Online at:http://www.optimus-education.com/impact-prematurity-special-educational-needs; accessed: 7.10.13]

Carpenter, B., Egerton, J., Brooks, T., Cockbill, B., Fotheringham, J. and Rawson, H. (2011) The Complex Learning Difficulties and Disabilities Research Project: Developing meaningful pathways to personalised learning (project report). London: Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (now The Schools Network). [Online at:http://complexld.ssatrust.org.uk/project-information.html; accessed: 21.3.12]

Carpenter, B., Egerton, J., Cockbill, B., Brooks, T., Fotheringham, J. and Rawson, H. (2015) Engaging Learners with Complex Learning Difficulties and Disabilities: A resource book for teachers and teaching assistants. Abingdon: Routledge.