Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Oh, no! There's an Aspie in the class.

A different seat of learning
Apparently teachers' hearts sink when they learn there's going to be a child on the spectrum in their class. Or so I'm told. 

I had no idea - having only encountered welcoming, friendly staff throughout Boy One's school career so far. A slightly snippy school receptionist was as bad as it ever got. 

Boy One got his high school report just the other day and I'm very proud of him. Most of it drips with unambiguous praise and notes his application and success. 

I was struck by how many of his teachers wanted to tell me that they like him and to let me know how much they enjoyed having him in their classes. It did seem a bit strange - after all liking him surely is their issue not mine or his if they are professional. And school is about academic success not popularity, is it not?

I didn't really think much more about it until quite recently.

First, I wrote a blog post for Tutorhub about what teachers might really mean in what they put in the little boxes on reports. 

Then, I went on one of the National Autistic Society's excellent seminars to help parents and carers. This one was about the teen years. I find the classes not only directly instructive, but they also focus my attention on Boy One and his particular view of the world. 

You see, Boy One is generally very little trouble. He's passive and unconfrontational - more inclined to slide away from difficulty than shout in its face. Undoubtedly this has made all our lives (except perhaps his) easier over the years, but it does mean he can become somewhat overlooked. 

It was on the course that I chatted to another parent - but one whose day job, by coincidence, takes her into contact with primary schools dealing with children with special educational needs (including autism). 

We were talking about life on the spectrum and how some kids cope better than others.

She said something, almost an aside, about teachers dreading to learn that they've got an AS on their list. She explained that, while the majority of teachers knew lots about how to help children on the spectrum and were well prepared to do so, there were a few for whom "a little knowledge has proved quite dangerous". These minority of teachers knew enough to believe that Aspies are difficult and disrupting, and that their parents are unlikely to be much better. In short, that child would cause them a headache of a year. 

So, reading Boy One's report between the lines this time, some of his teachers are telling me that, although they'd feared the worst, my lad is really no trouble at all. 


  1. This doesn't surprise me one bit. To some mainstream schools it's just a hassle they don't need. It was exactly like that at the mainstream school Amy used to attend before we put her in a special school 2 yrs ago. They weren't even prepared to make the effort and gave Amy no opportunities at thrive. In fact, their attitude towards special needs kids disgusted me. I could go on forever about how bad they were!

    CJ x

    1. Maybe I'm a bit naive, but I was taken aback when the penny dropped. It made me more aware of how lucky both Boy One and I are.

  2. I teach in an FE College, not a school, so things are perhaps a bit different. However, having any student who has particular additional needs, whether that is Autism or Dyslexia is a situation that we're not well equipped to deal with unless that person's needs are extreme enough to warrant support from a separate department. Funding cuts mean the teaching time's been stripped back to the absolute minimum on every subject (so we can teach more subjects in the same amount of contact time we're contracted to have), with the consequence that we have very little time for one-to-one help when students need it. Redundancies - again, due to cuts - mean the department who deal with providing extra support has fewer staff, so putting any special arrangements (even basic things like arranging for a student to use a laptop for an assessment, for example) have to be dealt with by lecturing staff on top of an already increased workload. It sucks for everyone, the student with additional needs doesn't get the support they deserve, the other students in the class can feel that they're not getting enough support, because the lecturer's spending additional time with the student with additional needs, and the lecturer's pulled from pillar to post, feeling they're not delivering an effective learning experience for anyone. The knock-on effect on all of this is spending prep/marking time (which is very limited in working hours) providing additional support to students, meaning even more work to take home. All of it stinks, and none of it's the teaching staff's fault.

    1. Thanks for your comment Cat. To be fair, I hadn't really looked at it from the teachers' point of view. You're right, it stinks. I wonder what we can do about it.

  3. I think that's a common thought, but in the case of 2 of mine, the dread would be met with behaviour that would make them want to run for the hills and never look back x


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