This blog is the final chapter of my M Ed dissertation (for which I received a distinction) It details the conclusions of my research into SEN training and autism training for teachers and how it can impact on their understanding and ultimately, their practice. I wrote and delivered a workshop based on the Autism Education Trust’s four key areas of difference as I was a registered trainer at the time. Delegates rated their knowledge and confidence before and after a 90 minute workshop, and participated in a 1:1 follow up consultation.
Chapter 8: Conclusions
The purpose of this study was to answer the question below and to conclude will be to decide if this question has been answered, taking into the account the background literature, the methods used and the results of the study itself.
Can training teachers about the four key areas of difference in autism have an
impact on their knowledge of a child with autism in their class and raise their
confidence in making provision for them?
I intended to answer this question using information from a background of research and literature that explored how teachers have been trained and how they will be trained in the future. Although training around autism was my main focus, the background research encompassed forty years of literature regarding teacher training for SEN. Specific training for autism is a relatively new concept in the history of teacher training. The development of the Autism Education Trust is a key component to this. The background research and literature revealed that teachers appear to have been denied access to the training that would have helped them the most over a long
period of time. However, it is unclear why this is the case when research, publications and Government intentions clearly state that teachers will receive training regarding SEN and have autism training. Forty years have passed since 1978 when the Warnock Report made a range of proposals for improving the education of children with SEN, with a focus on extending and deepening the knowledge of teachers. In 1997, the DfEE stated that serving teachers should be provided with training. The 2016 NAS online survey stated 60% of children and young people with autism revealed ‘teachers not understanding autism was the worst thing about school’
In 2017 the APPGA urged the Government to develop a national autism and education strategies. In September 2018, new teachers will
receive autism training as part of their Initial Teacher Training. The goals of the AET have a clear objective to ensure teachers are trained about autism through its training programmes, using the views of young people, parents and practitioners to inform this work. Evaluation by CEDAR concluded in both 2013 and 2016, the AET training programmes in general have had a significant impact in relation to
improvements in the schooling experience and learning opportunities provided for children with autism; this is a result of increased confidence and skills of school staff. A review of the impact on developing teachers’ knowledge identified that participants’ views were very positive. A clear difference is being made, with one hundred and eighty thousand people trained in the programme. The AET announced an extension to their contract with the Department for Education in its July 2018 Newsletter, a testament to the value placed on the training programmes.
The four key areas of difference is a concept introduced by the AET through its Making Sense of Autism (Tier 1) and Good Autism Practice (Tier 2) training. These areas make the diagnostic criteria from the DSM V for Autism Spectrum Disorder clear for educational professionals to understand the child and how these areas directly relate to that individual. It would make sense that understanding the four key areas of difference underpins basic knowledge. To have more knowledgeable and more confident teachers is a small step towards training teachers in autism and aiding them to make adaptations to provision to reduce the barriers faced by the child in the school environment. The social model of disability, which underpins the British political view on this issue, describes the environment as the disabling factor and not the person themselves.
This study clearly relates to the background research and literature and demonstrates the relevance it still holds for the teachers of 2018. Methods used ensured an exploration of what teachers already knew and the training they may have had. This was done through a pre-workshop questionnaire that informed the workshop itself. It ensured that teachers who had little or no previous training on autism were being given a basic understanding to help them consider the relevance it had to their everyday practice. In addition to this, the pre-workshop and post workshop questionnaires demonstrated a clear difference in knowledge and a rise in confidence to make adaptations. The post-workshop questionnaire demonstrated the success of the workshop as the participants had improved their knowledge as intended. However the most enlightening developments were demonstrated through the follow up consultations, where a semi-structured interview allowed the participants to explain in detail the impact of the workshop on their knowledge, confidence and classroom practice. Participants were extremely open in their responses as to how a ninety minute workshop had made a significant impact on their understanding. This opportunity for a follow up consultation gave the impression of having an additional benefit. This appeared to be due to the lack of training they had received in their careers so far, as highlighted in the background research and literature. Consequently, this impacted on a number of factors in their practice, including adaptations to the environment, relationships with children and other staff and confidence in relating to and providing for them. On the whole, they felt the four key areas of difference gave them a framework to build upon and was a good starting point to understanding the individual with autism in more holistic terms, in addition to and sometimes, outside of, their academic profiles. It gave them a format to make profiles on children and helped the participants to organise their thinking. They felt more empowered to make changes to their practice and take autonomy regarding provision as they appeared to have a new found understanding as to why adaptations were needed. During the follow up consultations, participants expressed a wish for more training, regardless of their length of service in teaching. NQTs and experienced teachers were coming to the workshop with a similar level of understanding regarding autism. This linked directly to the background research and literature, reflecting a forty year history of training regarding SEN. They wanted more staff in their schools, including senior leaders, to have training so they felt more supported in their practice and the knowledge of the four key areas of difference provided this. The results clearly indicate that training teachers in the four key areas of difference can impact on their knowledge of autism, as well as raising confidence in making provision for children with autism.
As a former class teacher and SENCO myself, I can only reflect as to how beneficial this information would have been during my teaching career. I would have had a deeper understanding of children with autism, based in fact, and not forced to make my own conclusions for behavioural responses witnessed. Invariably, not really understanding the underlying reason for the behaviours; based on the four key areas of difference. Like the participants to the workshop, I had very little training regarding SEN in general and no training regarding autism. I was denied access to training when I was a class teacher and only received further SEN training when I became a SENCO. This was not autism specific. This is not an unfamiliar story and emulates the research and background literature, the results of this study as well as the everyday experiences of the participants to the four key areas of difference workshop.
The background research and literature, the methods used and the results of this study hold a number of implications for my role as a local authority specialist teacher. I wholeheartedly believe work around four key areas of difference can provide teachers with knowledge and confidence. It has significant potential for further use, beyond its place within AET Tier 1 and Tier 2 training. It appears evident that
teachers need this training. Evidence from this study shows they want it and cannot be denied it any longer. A significant amount of time has already elapsed and little change has happened. Local authority specialist services, such as the specialist service I am currently employed by, have a duty to play a part in ensuring teachers working in their schools are suitably trained for the challenges ahead.
Undeniably, I clearly have a role in changing this; improving teacher knowledge and confidence to provide for children and young people with autism, resulting in better outcomes for them.
“Every teacher deserves the right training, and every autistic child needs a
teacher who understands them”
Mark Lever – Chief Executive of The National Autistic Society (2016)