Jo Bean, autism advisory teacher at Whitefield School in Waltham Forest, reflects on her lockdown experiences. We have heard plenty about the negative impact of the pandemic on autism and education, but what are the positives, if any?
We hear a lot in the media about the negative impact that the COVID 19 lockdown has had on children’s education and welfare, but rarely do we hear about the positives that may have occurred.
Working as an autism advisory teacher for a service providing SEND support to schools in Waltham Forest, it has become clear from discussions with school staff, that many children with autism who continued attending school during this difficult time, have been able to make very good progress academically, socially, and often with a marked improvement in their behaviour.
Interestingly, my colleagues, advisory teachers in learning difficulties and sensory impairment, were also getting similar feedback from schools about the children they helped to support.
Smaller classes, fewer distractions, and greater flexibility on the part of schools, have for some children with SEND, created a more accommodating environment in which they can relax and learn to the best of their abilities.
This has been both surprising and refreshing to discover, as the overriding message in the media seemed to focus entirely on the potential damage from the pandemic.
That is not to deny for one moment that it has been a deeply traumatic and difficult time for many families, as they have had to adjust to home schooling, social distancing, self-isolation, testing and all the other elements that are now all too familiar, and about which we knew nothing at this time last year. No doubt, the fallout from this extraordinary time will be with us for years to come.
When trying to predict how we might best adjust the support we offer as an advisory service, it had occurred to me that for some autistic children, home schooling might seem preferable to the constant pressures of school life. I had realised that the challenge for this group of children would be getting them back into school and re-establishing the old school routines.
I had not given much thought to the ones who had been attending school all along, and how they might have thrived at this time, creating a different challenge for support services like ours – how to help them readjust to school life as it used to be!
Birmingham University’s Autism Centre for Education and Research (ACER)
The process of writing his blog got me thinking about whether there had been other positives to come out of the COVID 19 pandemic lockdown for children and families affected by autism. My research led me to Birmingham University’s Autism Centre for Education and Research (ACER).
During the summer of 2020, they surveyed parents of autistic children about their experiences during lockdown, producing a set of videos recording their responses. One video in particular is all about positives from the lockdown, here is the link if you are interested to have a look for yourself:
Thank you Jo. A note from AET…
Our parent interviews also shed light on how autism and education have been impacted as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic. We hear from two parents – one who has decided to continue home-schooling, and another who was looking forward to schools re-opening.