Sunday, 5 June 2016

Autism and School: Challenges and Solutions

Supposing this was your view of a brightly decorated classroom with fluorescent lighting?

Where is the teacher?  Who's who, around you?

Imagine deafening noise.  Chatting.  People moving around in classrooms next door.  People walking in the corridor.  Computers whirring.  Overhead projectors buzzing.  Chairs scraping on the floor.  Keyboards clicking.

Imagine stifling perfumes and smells from antiperspirants.  Clothing fresheners.  Soaps and shampoos.  Toothpastes.  Paints.  Canteens.

Now, sit really quietly and nicely, and answer all the questions correctly.

We're not being 'disruptive' or 'un-co-operative'.  We're blinded, deafened, afraid, and often in sensory pain.

Be aware of autism, and why autistic pupils may behave as they do.

It's very understandable that they want to escape to somewhere quieter.
It's very understandable that 'under the desk' seems like a good option.
It's very understandable that they may panic when asked to eat in an even noisier, more confusing canteen/restaurant.
It's very understandable that they may stay on the edges of a crowd, where they feel safer from the relentless noise and pain.
It's also very understandable that the melee of social time during breaks and lunch is utterly exhausting, not refreshing, after all of this.

We don't improve when people shout at us, or force us to stay in the pain for longer, or bribe us to endure it for longer.   We're not being weak, we're not being stupid.  We just can't cope with this environment.

Get different lighting.  Do all you can to keep classes quieter, or offer noise cancelling headphones.  Use sunglasses to help with bright lighting.  Allow a break if needed.  Keep instructions simple and clear.  Write as well as say, if you can.  Allow us a quiet corner or hobby during free time. 

Just be aware that classes, canteen and playgrounds are not a friendly environment for most of us.

If we are allowed to be in places where we thrive, we become society's best and keenest workers.  Honest, diligent, passionate about our hobbies and interests, pioneers of social justice.

Get to know us as people.  It's always worth it.