Session 258: Teaching Pupils with Autism Spectrum Condition

Thursday 25th June 2015

-On Thursday (25th June) ?#?ukedchat? was hosted by @NicoleWhitelaw with a focus on Special Education Needs, and in particular, pupils who live with Autism. The session asked:

Image by hepingting on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Image by hepingting on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

(Q1) How can we build on the strengths of pupils with autism to promote learning?
(Q2) How can we promote independence for lower functioning pupils with Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC)?
(Q3) What resources are effective in supporting pupils with autism in their daily transitions?
(Q4) Which interventions work best to create an environment that develops social skills in children with ASC?
(Q5) How can we access the voice of pupils with ASC to learn more about their short and long term goals?
(Q6) What do policies and curricula in Sex and Relationship Education lack for pupils with autism?


The session started with a discussion of how to use pupil strengths to promote learning. While there were some great tips given, such as using structure, routine and visuals, it quickly became clear that the real issue is how we, as teachers, view pupils with ASC. For example, @reachoutASC said “don’t treat all autistic pupils the same – get to know their strengths, don’t assume you know”, with @Kimchilily adding “Actually hear their views and not generalise all autistic children.” @funASDteacher suggested that “an autism friendly classroom is one where teachers see students as individuals”, with @mm684 adding “There is no such thing as “autism friendly” what works for one drives another nuts.”

Another theme in answers to question one, was that by teaching in a way to support pupils with ASC, we will actually be supporting other learners as well. The importance of having well trained teachers and TAs was also highlighted.

Question two asked participants how they promote independence in young people with ASC. Again, many responses focused on getting to know the individual, with @jen_carlyle saying “allowing some individuality in learning – giving choice in what is studied, passion projects”. There was also some discussion about what independence means, with a general consensus that it means being able to make choices, and making decisions to keep themselves safe. @CarolPoveyNAS added “the term independence is misleading, we are all dependent on others”.

Question three asked how teachers can support daily transitions. Much of the discussion here focused on using visual support, routine and structure, with @NVandenAbeele reminding us that “Working out lesson plans in a structured way provides benefits for both (all!) learners and the teacher”.

Question four asked what strategies can be used to support the development of social skills. Much of the discussion here was around the importance of building strong relationships and modelling social skills. @jw_teach suggested that “all of us need to feel secure and able to relax before we interact positively.” There was also some discussion of whether all pupils with ASC need to be taught social skills; what if a particular pupil has no interest in that aspect of life? @reachoutASC suggested “teaching to be a social detective rather than trying to be like everyone else to fit in.”

Question five asked how we can access pupil voice to understand short and long term goals pupils with ASC might have for themselves.@Rozys9 suggested that we need to “be curious, be open to the possibility of communication of this with the student” @snowdropbooks, @brynll and @funASDteacher all suggested using different methods, such as storyboards, art and film. @JGarethNoble seemed to get to the heart of the matter by suggesting that what we need is “time (which no one has enough of), match their language and interests; be innovative, creative and patient.”

The final question of the night focused on sex and relationship education. Answers here focused on staff receiving good training, and there being a strong SRE curriculum in place. @jw_teach suggested that “When teaching SRE your preconceptions and hang ups can be dangerous when working with vulnerable students.”

Throughout the session, several themes emerged. These were the importance of seeing the individuals, getting to know them well and valuing their strengths. There was also some discussion about the importance of involving (and educating) others, for example parents, teachers, TAs, employers and people in the community.

What became clear throughout the discussion was the number of people who feel passionate about supporting children with ASC, who are dedicated to making a difference and who are working hard to ensure more people understand the condition. Inspiring stuff!

Notable Tweets from the Session:

@jw_teach first we need to identify their needs, no two students with ASD are the same. Then we can remove barriers and… Fly.

@snowdropbooks autism friendly classrooms have aware staff and reflective ongoing conversations with the student about needs

@CarolPoveyNAS remember that functioning labels don’t adequately describe the strengths + challenges of individual pupils

@Rozys9 identify and promote strengths not just with the students but with the adults responsible and community around

@mm684 ask us and then listen to what is said

@chrissiefiddle well qualified support staff who know what they’re doing, and work alongside the teacher- not instead of!

@urban_teacher I took time out of teaching to shadow & support an Autistic student. Best insight i ever got! As a result i enhanced my lessons.

@reachoutASC The pupils I work with like to know what the label means for them. When they are ready it can help.

@JGarethNoble the key here is listening, there is more than one way to actively listen

@funASDteacher provide structure and scripts in an environment where they feel safe, visual supports are key to success

Tweet of the Week:

@trjepace each ASC student I have the pleasure to meet has different strengths and needs which require individual support.



About your host:

@NicoleWhitelaw is Senior Lecturer in SEN at the University of East London. Until recently, she was a teacher of teenagers with ASC. Along with lecturing, she also provides CPD in schools.

All questions were devised by MA SEN students taking the autism module: @rozys9, @karenkim77, @GabrielaCastroR, @dianatzn3, @ErikaBond17, @AliceYoungman, @academicNana, @NSaleh6, @olivegreenevent. The majority of the students work in education, either as teachers or learning support assistants. All have chosen to study autism in order to develop their understanding of the condition, and to enhance their practice.

As part of the module, we have been exploring how our attitudes to ASC are shaped by cultural understanding of the condition, and how important it is for teachers to be able to see the individuals, not just the label. We have considered how to use the strengths of pupils with ASC, but also what barriers exist and how best to overcome these.


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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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