Successful teacher of autistic children
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List of useful resources for teachers of autistic children

If you teach an autistic child, you may be looking for ways to support them in and out of the classroom. Here we have listed some of the ideas, tools and resources to help autistic pupils thrive, ranging in age from nursery to sixth-form.

Laws to abide by

Anyone working with SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) children / young people need to know about the SEND code of practice. Launched in 2014, it describes the duties of Local Authorities, health bodies, schools and colleges to provide for SEND individuals up to the age of 25 years.

Other laws you will need to know about are:

Local resources

Resources provided by your Local Authority (e.g. Bristol City Council) are a useful starting place when looking for additional help. Services are listed as part of the Local Offer, including a section dedicated to those living / working with Autistic individuals. The links below take you to the Local Offers from Bristol, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset and BaNES:

Each Local Authority should have an Autism Outreach Team [e.g. Bristol Autism Team (BAT)] who can support teachers, providing services such as awareness training and plans tailored for individual students. Each Authority’s Local Offer has details of the team in your area, how to refer a pupil and links to other services that they offer. It is also useful to know how to make a referral to services such as the local paediatric Occupational Therapy or Speech and Language Therapy team, as they will can provide ideas, exercises, techniques and resources to help a child reach their potential.

Speech and Language Therapy

Speech and language therapy (SaLT) is about much more than just talking. It also takes a holistic view of communication, getting needs met, communicating feelings, etc.

Autistic girl with fidget spinner
Fidget toys may help with concentration

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy deals with ways to help individuals with daily tasks, such as dressing and self-care. In a school setting, this can involve things like writing and using movement breaks or fiddle toys to reduce anxiety and improve concentration.

Struggling autistic schoolgirl
Autistic children often find school challenging

Anxiety and Stress

Anxiety and stress can cause many problems for autistic individuals. For example, the uncertainty of transitions can cause huge anxiety. Transitions happen every day (between lessons, between activities, going to school, going home) as well as in between big events such as changing educational establishments, having a supply teacher rather than the normal teacher, building up to Christmas etc. With a little planning and forethought both by the school and by the family, a lot of the difficulties created by transitions can be avoided.

Communication

Communication and understanding are one of the difficulties that autistic children struggle with. Many children find visual prompts, timetables and other such tools are much more easy to follow than verbal commands. The following links provide useful techniques, ideas and tools for communicating with autistic pupils in a way that’s accessible, and which enables them to fulfil their potential.

Communication includes the ability to read and write. Some children will have no difficulty with these skills, whilst others will really struggle. Below are links to pages that provide ideas, tools and techniques that could be used to help such children.

  • NAS – A list of ideas and links to further pages with resources
  • Teacher tool kit – more ideas
  • Nessy – an online program for any child struggling with reading and writing
  • The Autism Helper – more ideas again

Teacher plans a lesson for children with ASD
It pays to plan when teaching autistic children

Lesson planning

Planning lessons for autistic children may involve a little extra effort but it’s worth it. Visual aids and other solutions can be used to meet the needs of autistic pupils of any age, and may be appreciated by other children too.

Socialising and bullying

Socialising can often be very stressful for autistic children, as they misread body language, display different behaviours and fail to understand subtle social cues. Making friends is often a mysterious process for those with ASD. However, bullying can be equally difficult to deal. These links may provide some useful resources:

Sensory Sensitivities

A child with sensory issues to things like noise (the classroom chatter, the buzzing sound of strip lights), smell and touch (the feel of the pen, carpet, clothes etc) may struggle to concentrate if overwhelmed by their senses. Identifying problems and finding ways around them may well enable the child to concentrate better.  It may be that this is an area that Occupational Therapists may be of particular help:

Timetables

An important part of any school’s job is to provide timetables. For some autistic children, particularly those of a younger age, visual timetables are a godsend. They clearly display what’s going on during a school day, using images and short sentences or one-word captions. Here are some links for inspiration:

 

Tools for Specific Age Groups

Early Years
Primary School
  • NAS
  • My World – a free newsletter for education professionals produced by NAS
  • Twinkl – a range of resources including visual timetables and symbols
  • TES – a range of resources
Secondary Education
Post 16 Education

Timer for autism transitions
Managing transitions may reduce anxiety

Transitions

Transitions cover any change in activity, whether it be small (finishing one game and moving onto the next) or large (changing nursery, school or college). In particular, preparing teenage children for college, university and beyond presents a unique set of challenges. The links below offer tips on how to manage transitions, with some focusing on helping those preparing for ‘A’ Levels, apprenticeships and university.

Additional information

Useful websites

To find more information on specific topics relating to autism in school, there are a few websites worth visiting:

Books and leaflets

Many books have been written about autism and education. Here is a small selection which may provide an understanding of the challenges faced by  autistic children and how best to teach them:

Thank you Quartet Foundation

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