I truly can’t believe the last time I published a blog was 6th April! The last (nearly) 8 weeks have completely flown by and the diary has been full. I feel that, finally, autism act is becoming what I envisaged it could have been when I set up as an independent consultant and trainer 18 months ago. The Covid 19 pandemic has not stopped me working but I had to change the majority of what my business would be to something different. However, I am still here and the autism act services are in demand.
So, what has been happening over the last half term?
Firstly, I started a new commissioned contract on the 12th April which has taken me to supporting a different age group in a secondary school. I am primary school trained and even my experience as a local authority autism specialist teacher only took me to Year 7. Understandably, I had some nerves about this post but I soon realised something very important….
My content is always on the same theme, with the same ethos. It’s just the context I am delivering it in that is different. And this commissioned contract with a secondary school is no different. I actually love the young people referred to me and while not all are autistic, the emotional regulation coaching and self awareness work has already shown an impact – understanding the body gives us signs to our emotions, self identification of states of alertness, new strategies to try for emotional regulation, knowing about neurodiversity and what it means for them personally, improved attendance, feeling more empowered to give their views. It’s not all roses of course, it is hard work and not all of them are ready to take the new approach fully on board. It has be to a gentle journey, guided by a nurturing but honest approach.
The work has led me to develop a range of self awareness cards that have been used and the feedback from the young people themselves is good. The cards include the following titles:
I am autistic. What does that mean?
I am dyspraxic. What does that mean?
I have ADHD. What does that mean?
I need support with my executive functioning. What does that mean?
After working with the young person in school, I make them their own, smaller version of the card to take home. For one particular pupil, this has made a huge difference. Feedback from his mum was he has it on the fridge, if he has a bad day he looks at the card and pinpoints what is making that day challenging for him. Self awareness and empowerment have improved his attendance. ‘I just thought I was weird,’ he said.
For me, this feedback is reason to keep using the self awareness cards and develop them further.
And then, there are my hourly package schools. I have 4 schools who signed up to an hourly package, 3 have already told me they want to renew as their hours are finishing and 2 new schools are considering either a 10 or 20 hour package. It has been good to be back in those schools and pick up where we left off due to Lockdown 2.0. The schools tell me what focus they want, with my guidance and I’ve observed children, written reports, coached staff as individuals and trained larger groups. This is my most familiar work and mirrors what I did as a local authority autism specialist teacher. I think it provides familiarity and security for the schools. Sometimes knowing that I am visiting helps to keep staff motivated as they know the support is going to happen. Some of them are working with complex children and that can be very challenging, especially if you feel unsupported and out of your skills set depth. My support raises knowledge and builds confidence and it is always great to see a member of staff who is using the ideas given to make a difference.
Of course, parent support is the 3rd main element to the last 8 weeks and enquiries continue to come in from around the country. One positive impact of Covid 19 has been the use of zoom and the ability to reach a wider audience. The 2 approaches available for parents are to buy a block of 10 hours or ‘pay as you go’ and both of these have been successful. I am working with parents over zoom to improve their knowledge and work with them to try new strategies at home – using a range of visual supports or understanding sensory needs as 2 examples.
For local parents, I have been able to visit school to observe, write a report and attend annual reviews. I am able to give autism specific advice which is no longer available through the local authority. Working with parents and schools in collaboration is my ideal piece of work and I’ve been lucky to experience this.
It is always sad when a piece of work comes to an end but it should also be a joyous time! I’ve had the pleasure of working with a young lady who is awaiting her autism diagnosis. The work has enabled her to get back into school, helped her to understand her own needs and given her new strategies to try. I’ve been part of a team of support and now my work is done and it is time to let the rest of the team carry on. Again knowledge, confidence and empowerment have prevailed.
What next for autism act?
Another new contract has come my way after working with Kim from South Essex Extended Services to put together a bid for a grant to work with local schools and families. Kim’s bid was successful and this means I have 7 half terms of support to offer, including school based work, consultations for schools, training for support staff, siblings support, 1:1 parent support and resurrecting the parent coffee morning! Amazing!
I think I need to add ‘juggler’ to my list of skills to keep all of this amazing work afloat. autism act services continue and they enable my mission to ‘support those who support an autistic child or young person’