Ways schools can be welcoming to autistic children

Stephen McHugh
This post was last updated on
August 28, 2022
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It’s that time of the year again when the new academic year starts at school. And this can lead to mixed feelings for neurodiverse children, including those with autism. Feelings can include how they may readjust to the school environment again after a considerable period away. 

I haven’t posted for a while, as I have been busy with other things deemed more important. One thing which I’ve been doing is work on the website, mainly in terms of reorganising it so that it is easier for people to find whatever information they desire. 

But now back to the main post, the return and readjustment to the school environment.

There are ways in which schools can make the transition more manageable after the holidays. Below is a list of values held by my headteacher at the time which were helpful to me when I was young and in primary school. 

Schools should be places where everyone connected with it, including staff, children and parents should feel part of a wider family. This was helped by the fact that my headteacher at the time recognised the importance of, and had great respect for Christian values of inclusivity for all. 

Have a belief that education is for all, regardless of gender, race, religion, ability or disability. Expand and ensure learning opportunities and appropriate support to those who appear to be struggling the most.

Try to see the potential in the children, and provide opportunities linked to whatever they may be good at or interested in doing. If they’re good at music, then give them opportunities to put these talents to use in any school plays which may be musical to an extent.

Don’t see the school curriculum as just subjects, like Mathematics, English and all the rest. More importantly, ensure a school is a Values Based community. This can be where it is a place where everyone within the school community recognises the importance of things like honesty, loyalty, kindness, integrity, friendship, prayer, love, empathy and respect. Other children accepted me for who I was, even though I was seen as different.

Encourage, guide and support everyone within the community in accepting, understanding and embracing changes and differences. This can help us to face present and future difficulties with faith, fortitude, hope, and increased confidence. Their faith was one of those which helped to inspire mine, and remains very important to me. You can read more about it here.

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.

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When a child gets excited about something, it’s like a fire getting started. The same can be said for finding a way to help a child.

And by finding more opportunities for a child, it’s comparable to adding more fuel to the fire in order to make it bigger and bigger. This, for me, represents progress. On the other hand, a pail can only hold up to a certain amount of water.  

And finally

Are you in a teaching capacity and have any neurodiverse children at the school where you work? 

What values do you have in your school to create a welcoming environment for them?

Or if you’re a parent of any neurodiverse children, what values do their schools have that make them more welcoming and manageable for them?

Why not let me know in the comments section below.

 

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