Key Academic Skills
In the Centre, academic lessons are differentiated for the needs of pupils with autism. In comparison to a mainstream classroom environment, the primary difference is the use of ‘structured teaching’. This involves using a consistent format and set of cues for each lesson which pupils can easily learn to predict. Timetables and routines for lessons are kept as regular as possible to reduce anxiety caused by change and the unknown. Wherever possible, any necessary change within the daily learning routine is carefully prepared for.
Learning is broken into small blocks and adult-led time is interleaved with frequent periods of ‘low demand’ time during which pupils may pursue their own interests. Feedback methods are adapted to support those who are very sensitive to perceived failure or criticism. Learning is carefully designed to be high challenge, but risk-free. Alternative recording methods are used for those with motor-control and perceptual barriers to handwriting. Each pupil is supported as an individual to be able to access the specialist teaching delivered to their group. Individual (1:1) teaching is avoided as much as possible, although it is occasionally necessary for specific, time-limited interventions.
Along with the rest of the school, the base classes follow the White Rose planning structure. Plenty of opportunities are built in for over-learning and to apply maths in a range of real-life contexts, such as shopping and cooking.
Decoding is taught rigorously using the whole school reading scheme. Dyslexia often co-exists with autism and we have effective dyslexia-specific interventions in place for any pupil who needs it, whether diagnosed or not. A love of reading is encouraged- reading can be hugely helpful for autistic children to develop their social understanding and explore emotions safely, as well as being enjoyable. Pupils are read to daily, experiencing a wide range of the best quality children’s literature. They also have daily guided reading and time to read independently for pleasure.
We have a strong focus on vocabulary and pragmatics to support pupils’ communication skills.
Pupils write for a range of purposes across the curriculum. They develop a secure understanding of grammar and are encouraged to use writing to express themselves and their ideas clearly. Pupils’ special interests are used to encourage them to enjoy writing creatively. Alternative recording methods, such as word processing, are used extensively to ensure that motor co-ordination difficulties are not a barrier to the development of composition skills.