Elaine Nicholson offers some words of encouragement for the less experienced teacher in a mainstream classroom.

Education should be inclusive for all, and If you approach the education of autistic children with the spirit of inclusivity, they will tune in to this and feel welcome, warm, and wanted. Autistic children and teens know when a teacher doesn’t ‘get’ them, and they feel this deeply. It’s like feelings of rejection. Many ADHD adults suffer rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD) which has its roots in childhood. Teachers need to be mindful of the part they play in the developing emotional brain of the child, and developing good mental health. This is a most important piece of advice for an inexperienced teacher in a mainstream school who has a pupil in their classroom with a neurodivergence. Many children will not have a formal diagnosis. Set aside some time for research, but remember that everyone with a neurodivergence is different, and we learn something new about autism every day from those who identify as autistic.

Giving the child unconditional positive regard will set the stage for good learning. SEN children can and will test you, so having a good window of tolerance is also important, as the student benefits from your calm and grounded approach. See diagram.

How can you identify a student who has special educational needs? You may notice that a child becomes stressed when starting tasks or when asked to work as a group. Perhaps they are reluctant to do homework. Additionally, they may experience erratic progress at school (some children may even regress). They might be eye contact avoidant or find themselves over-stimulated in stark sensory environments (loud noise, bright lights, smells, and similar). A discerning teacher will notice, despite the presence of masking, which is what autistic children do to fit in.

Elaine Nicholson
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Elaine Nicholson MBE CEO/Counsellor Action for Asperger's

Website: www.actionforaspergers.org


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