Special Educational Needs and Disabilities
There have been financial cuts, which may be sending our schools into crisis. More prominent, these cuts could have an enormous impact on the education of children with Special Educational Needs and Disability. (SEND)
In addition, The National Statistics for Special Educational Needs in England: January 2020 states that: “the most common type of need for pupils with an EHCP is autism spectrum disorders”.
As a mother of an autistic child, with an EHC Plan, (and from previous experience working as a 1:1 Learning Support Assistant within a mainstream school); I believe that attending a mainstream school can be an overwhelming process for autistic kids, with many learning opportunities missed. In addition, autistic skills, which are incredibly important. can be missed.
Although it can be difficult, everyone has a right to fulfil their true potential in life, no matter what their school choice is.
I believe that the main challenges that schools face within mainstream education (in my opinion), to provide inclusive education for children with Special Educational Needs are:
- Lack of funds
- Teacher shortage
- Inconsistency in training
- Not utilizing resources effectively.
Lack of funds
In my opinion, the lack of funds makes it difficult for schools to invest in teachers, and adequate resources to meet the needs of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).
Equality Act and Education Act
We are seeing more news articles highlighting schools excluding autistic children. Furthermore, it is unlawful to exclude children who have additional needs without making reasonable adjustments. (it must be in the best welfare of the pupil, Equality Act 2010, Chapter 4)
I feel that teachers are undervalued, overworked, and underpaid. With endless amounts of workload, it is no wonder why we have an issue with recruiting teachers. Therefore, it is my opinion that teaching is one of the most stressful jobs in the UK.
We are seeing more schools investing in recruitment agencies to temporarily cover their staff to child ratio, (legal requirement). In other words, this can sometimes mean that the person may not be invested in the school as they are only there on a temporarily placement. (my opinion)
The SEND Code of Practice ensures that every school has a SENDCO, who represents children who have special educational needs and disabilities. In addition, they ensure that all special needs provisions are met in schools.
There are SENDCOs, who are taking on two job roles appose to solely being a SENDCO. The SENDCOs are being stretched to their limits. Therefore, with them being stretched to their limits, how can we ensure that children on the autism spectrum are given a fair opportunity to thrive in mainstream schools?
Inconsistency in Training
To start a job in a school you have endless amounts of paperwork to fill in, and training modules to complete. Therefore, I feel like the training is rushed. (from my experience as a Learning Support Assistant). Furthermore, the rushed training shows an eagerness to get you in to start and work, and sometimes the knowledge from training does not get retained.
Lack of Understanding
I feel that there can be a lack of understanding of autism in some mainstream school environments, and a lack of support. Conversely, there are also brilliant teachers too who do understand the needs of autistic children.
I feel that at least one specialist teacher per school should be employed within mainstream education. In addition, a specialist teacher, employed to work in mainstream school, can ensure that continuous training is being implemented, and assist with incorporating sensory integration and specific learning.
The specialist teacher could educate others about sensory sensitivity with focus on vestibular and proprioceptive input . Lastly, a specialist teacher could make recommendations for reasonable adjustments to help autistic children.
Firstly, a valuable resource that must not be overlooked are parents. Yes! You are experts and have a unique insight into your child. In other words, parents are partners with teachers, and should be encouraged to talk to teachers to share ideas.
Communication, Routine and Structure
My son flourishes best with structure and routine, although he, at times, struggles to understand other’s perspective. In addition to this, he attends mainstream school and has to do additional learning to help develop his understanding of social skills and emotions. Even teaching him inferences and metaphors requires a different teaching approach to conventional methods. Although, without strong communication between the parents and teachers, and working together, it is difficult to move things forward.
I would class my son as an inbetweener, meaning he fits in between mainstream and special needs school. My son has this amazing ability to remember conversations word by word from years ago. So, I use his skill as a to help facilitate how to teach him in a logical and relatable way to him.
From previous experience, I feel that the resources available in schools are not being utilized effectively. Furthermore, I believe this is a training issue from lack of understanding of how to use them.
Early Intervention in Early Years
Early intervention (and from early years) is fundamental to help support autistic children access education. In addition, I believe that some resources used in Early Years can be used throughout the school years. Examples are:
A pupil passport allows every teacher who works with a child/young person to know their likes/dislikes/what helps them learn/what helps them relax. Here are two templates that I have made:
Visual timetables and Now and Next boards.
Here are two Now and Next templates that I have created:
Interactive and sequenced learning games
I have created an interactive alphabet activity. (just to give you an idea) Furthermore, the interactive game is an example of kinaesthetic learning, which is more tactile style of receiving information.
- Print off the alphabet activity template
- Next, laminate the sheets, and print the template off on card or paper.
- Cut out the letters
- Apply Velcro onto the back of the letters and onto the grey boxes on the second sheet
- Place the letters onto the grey squares, leaving a few empty squares.
- Now you can play fill in the missing alphabet sequence
Finally, the alphabet letters can be mixed up to encourage the person playing to sequence the letters in the correct order.
Alphabet Activity Template.
- Emotions activities and traffic light systems are great resources too to use in mainstream education.
Encouraging movement breaks and the use of fidget toys helps too within school. (mainstream education and special)
There needs to be more willingness to understand autism in mainstream schools and training. Additionally, more money needs to be invested in resources and specialist teachers need to be employed to help promote continuous training, ensuring that the resources are being used effectively. After that, this will help autistic children access the curriculum and have a chance to thrive in mainstream school.
Note: This post is for information purposes only, and based on personal opinion. Always seek professional advice and support from legal, social, health and educational providers.