I never usually know what to write about when I start these blogs, they start and morph into something, but today I do have a topic in mind. Something that has been hovering in my head for a while, but I thought it was common sense so never bothered really telling any one. As any of you who read my tweets will know i have a passion for Autism. I don’t have any family members with a diagnosis, but I am lucky enough to have a number of friends who have a diagnosis or have children with this very special condition.
My background is in special education and child development and I don’t have any difficulty relating to people with differences, after all we are all different in some way. People have told me that I have an ability to see people not labels or difficulties, I can see how best to support a person in the best way and that I understand difficulties and adapt to meet their needs. This has only recently become apparent to me, I thought everyone could do this, but many chose not to. Apparently I was wrong! (That in its self is a shock.)
Getting back to the topic of the blog. Educating Autism.
I have recently realised that teachers teach in a typical manner, they way they are taught to teach, the way they are expected to teach, each with their own unique take on it, but generally in a way that fits the education system. A bit like a conveyor system, foundation you learn this, then year 1 you learn this, in year 2 you build on year on and foundation as well as learning this, and so education continues. This is not a criticism of teachers, (I believe they all do a great job and try their best fitting in all the planning, marking, CPD, extra curricular activities, nurturing etc.) but it is a criticism of the education structure. Following the Warnock Report inclusion was made a focus for educationalists, and inclusion can be excellent for many children. But the system needs to change to accommodate the very different needs of children who now attend mainstream schools, teachers need to know how to adapt their teaching, differentiate the learning, accommodate the children, listen to parents and be involved in all aspects of the child’s care and not just on paper. Anyway this is a diversion from my subject.
I may have mentioned in previous blogs that children with special needs learn differently so the traditional and usual methods of teaching reading for example may not be suitable for all children in mainstream education. For children with very logical thinking patterns phonics means nothing, there is no purpose to it so why should they spend their time learning it, or not as the case usually is. There are alternative ways to teach a child to read. I see this as common sense, if one way isn’t working, find another. By insisting on following the same system for children who are struggling you are failing them, they are not achieving or enjoying (Every Child Matters) their learning, they become distracted and display behaviour teachers find challenging, disruptive and are given a label. If this is the result of foundation stage then can you imagine the impact that will have on the child’s emotional and intellectual development in future years?
I have no simple answer to this; inclusion is important and works well for many children, teachers are working hard to meet the needs of all of the children in their class, time is precious to them. Maybe the answer is in the teacher training, and the education system as a whole. Introduce teachers to other methods of teaching, and ensure the education system does provide for individual children allowing them to progress at their own pace rather than the pace set by Government.
feel free to add your comments, lets see if we can improve, for the children