Autism awareness matters.
After all if we aren’t aware of the things that make life more difficult for those with autism how do we know what needs to change. Likewise if we don’t hear from Autistic adults about what it’s possible for our children to achieve how do we know to reach for the stars.
That said, whilst awareness is important. There is something even more important, and that is action.
Fifteen years ago I sat in my University Teacher Training lectures dismayed by the lack of information and training given about Special Educational Needs. In fact during a year long PGCE I recieved less that a morning’s training about strategies for differentiation.
Naively I expected that over the years things would change.
I didn’t expect to be still sat here fifteen years later, surrounded by colleagues who have never been taught to differentiate effectively. And perhaps even more importantly who have never been taught how to differentiate easily.
Because the truth is the easier we make differentiation, the more likely teachers are to do it.
Teachers have a hefty workload, multiple priorities and an ever increasing pile of paperwork. Training during Initial Teacher Training that focused on showing that good differentiation doesn’t have to be about increasing the pile of paper would make a huge difference.
Because the truth is good differentiation is about a shift in mindset. It’s about flexibility. It’s about getting to know the person behind the diagnosis.
And critically it’s far less about making multiple worksheets to teach the same topic than most teachers assume.
But instead teachers are left to wing it.
Despite being on the front line. Despite being expected to refer children who need it to a diagnostic pathway and despite being expected to teach everyone in their class effectively, no one seems to think that SEND training is critical for teachers.
And maybe there was a point at which that was the case.
Before budgets were slashed and waiting times grew, it was easier to get support from specialists. What were then statements and are now EHCPs, had lower thresholds of need.
In short a student didn’t have to reach crisis point before help was given.
But right here, right now that is not the case. There is very little external support for young people either before, during or after diagnosis. Teachers are holding the fort. But all too often they holding it without all of the answers and information they need to ensure successful outcomes.
There has never been more need for training. There has never been more need for understanding. There has never been more need for awareness.
So my wish for Autism Awareness Week is this: I hope that one day my site isn’t needed. I hope that one day all teachers have the strategies it contains taught to them, before they get as far as entering a classroom.
Just imagine the difference it would make if that happened?