Our guest blogger, Kerry Preece, is a Specialist Teacher at the Communication and Autism Team in Birmingham. She writes about the importance of increasing Autism Awareness in your educational setting and provides pertinent information and actions you can take to become more autism aware.
There are around 700,000 people in the UK with an Autism diagnosis which is more than 1 in 100. For those of us in educational settings it is important for us to have an awareness of Autism and knowledge of how this affects individuals we might have in our settings and classrooms.
An increasing amount of research over the last few years has identified that young people in our settings are being suspended and expelled and this might be attributed to a lack of understanding. Data taken from the National Autistic society website highlights 17% of children have been suspended from school, 48% suspended more than 3 or 4 times and 4% expelled from settings.
Why is this? Is it that staff are unfamiliar with how Autism presents and therefore are misinterpreting what they are faced with in settings as behaviour and not looking at it through an Autism lens? Without understanding, autistic children and young people are at risk of being isolated and not fulfilling their potential as young people both in educational settings and in our communities.
In this post I’ll be explaining why Autism Awareness is important and how to increase Autism Awareness in your settings and classrooms.
What is Autism Awareness and why does it matter?
Autism Awareness is crucial for all of us to have in order that we, embrace the strengths of every individual we might teach, mentor, work with or care for. If we have this knowledge, we can open a wealth of learning opportunities for those with Autism and those of us who do not.
December 2017 saw the publication of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Autism (APPGA) report. This report highlighted some shocking statistics:
‘6/10 pupils said the main thing that would make school better was having teachers that understood them.
‘40% of parents reported that their child’s school place does not fully meet their needs.’
Fewer than 5/10 teachers are confident in supporting a child on the Autism spectrum.’
Recommendations set out in the report, encouraged local authorities and individual schools to look towards creating a culture and ethos that embraced and supported both staff and pupils with the knowledge and understanding they needed to address these points.
So how do we increase Autism awareness?
The APPGA report 2017 made recommendations that all Local Authorities and educational settings should look to implement the Autism Education Trust framework and programmes of training. The resources and materials available would be integral to the implementation of the points below and therefore increasing Autism Awareness in settings.
- Create a Culture and Ethos that embraces Autism. Managers need to ensure that Autism is seen as a difference not a deficit and lead by example when looking to make changes in their settings. https://www.autismeducationtrust.org.uk/shop/la-guidance/
- Staff training https://www.autismeducationtrust.org.uk/training-programme/
- Peer education and awareness, celebrating Autism awareness week and focus on embracing difference and see it as a positive. Children and young people with Autism need to feel able to be themselves, to express their individuality in an environment that is accepting of difference. They need to be given the opportunity to express their views on a range of subjects and have the support and understanding of those around them.
- Developing the environment https://www.autismeducationtrust.org.uk/resources/
- Embedding policy and practice, implantation of current legislation
- Flexible provision and support, making reasonable adjustments to curriculum, support and environment to reflect need.
Increasing knowledge and understanding are just the tip of the iceberg to enable staff to feel more confident to support children and young people with Autism in settings, for children to feel accepted and part of their setting and for the community as a whole to accept and embrace this increasing group of people.
Look to your local Autism Education Trust training partner to access a range of resources and training to increase the knowledge and awareness of your staff and setting https://www.autismeducationtrust.org.uk/schools-training-providers/