Tuesday, 28 August 2018

'He is stubborn and unco-operative!'

Guest blogpost by Karen Horner:
Stubborn and un co-operative! Oh how many times have I heard that working in mainstream schools. We have come along way in the last 15 years to understand autism yet some schools still continue to use words like stubborn, unco-operative, own agenda, daydream ........need I go on?

Funding has been cut so much that children who need the help and support in schools are either not getting it or are given 1-1 support with teaching assistants who are not trained or experienced in autism. I could tell so many stories but one that really got to me happened a few years ago. I observed a child in a mainstream school and was pleased to see at carpet time that the teacher was ok with the child looking out of the window as she was talking.
When carpet time ended she asked the child what she had been talking about and he duly answered word for word. She then asked him what she had requested him to do and again he answered positively. Going back to his seat he picked up his pen and continued to sit for a while. The T.A approached him and reminded him he needed to put the date on and the learning objective showing him where to put that. He complied and proceeded to also write the title. Then he sat and sat, the teacher reminded him what he needed to do and continued sitting with the higher group. The child got up and began walking round the classroom where by the teacher calmly asked him to sit down and get on with his literacy.
One again he just sat and looked perplexed. He then got up and went into the reading corner where by he began to tidy the books, once again the teacher now with an edge to her voice asked him to sit down reiterating that he had work to be getting on with and she hadn’t asked him to tidy the books. I observed the expression on the child’s face as he continued to tidy them. The teacher then becoming more agitated approached him with an edge to her voice again telling him to leave the books and go and do his work. The child’s arm shot out striking the teacher whereby he was then excluded from school for being stubborn, unco-operative and aggressive. So what really happened here? I spoke to the child in his home with his Mum present and it did take a long time to work through what happened but for here in a nut shell, he got back to his seat and didn’t know how or where to start his literacy so he wandered around the classroom looking at the work of others to try and work out how to do it. He knew what he had to do but not how. As he was then not allowed to do this it struck him that his teacher liked the book corner tidy and as it wasn’t he decided she might be pleased with him if he tidied it. When she asked him to leave it he felt he couldn’t as he hadn’t finished it so he continued with the aim of finishing then going back to his seat. He put his hand out as the teacher approached because she was coming (in his eyes) at such a speed it made him apprehensive so he wanted to stop her.
In this one scenario any teacher or T.A experienced would understand why all this had occurred moreover how to deal with it. To me, this was classic difficulties with theory of mind, executive function and visual difficulties. You could also add central cohesion into that mix as he was unable to see the bigger picture of what would happen if he didn’t comply. This exclusion could have been avoided if trained and experienced staff were on hand to help him. So many times I hear negative things such as, 'He is lazy so don’t intervene', 'He knows it he just wont do it' etc. It does make my blood boil. These children are tomorrow's adults and the system is failing them right, left and centre.

Karen Horner

Karen runs Gateshead Autsm Support, which supports families and children living with ASD, click here for the Facebook page. She also runs Relax Kids in the North East

Gateshead Autism Support

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