Greetings to you all,
I have started this thread to discover other individuals perspectives regarding the best way to raise Autism awareness within a secondary school setting. I currently work at an academy which is very aware of the neurological development disorder, however I believe we can do better. The majority of the members of staff are quite knowledgeable about ASD and implement interventions to support teenagers with ASD where possible with academia, however, I feel if the student body were more aware of the condition, I believe our teenagers with ASD would get a much more fulfilling experience from their time at school. I welcome any responses and look forward to hearing from you all!
It might be an idea to highlight famous people who have ASD, as teenagers generally engage with and relate to celebrities and people they admire in the media. There seem to be many to choose from, from all walks of life, so that all of the pupils would relate to at least one person whether that be a sports, movie, music, or TV star to famous names in academia.
If you were able to discuss the ways in which ASD helped and hindered those people it would be a start in allowing non-ASD pupils to relate more to their ASD classmates and it might also give your ASD pupils a different view of their own diagnosis and difficulties.
Classes could perhaps also, after learning more about ASD in general, be encouraged to consider it from a more immediate / personal perspective by being asked to come up with ways to make the school more ASD friendly.
It's been quite a while since I spent any significant time in a high school and although teachers and staff such as yourself do spend as much time there as the pupils, it's not in the same way. The pupils see, experience, and use the school very differently to the staff and so input from both ASD and non-ASD pupils on an ASD friendly school could be an invaluable insight.
I do however agree with the previous post in that the language used to introduce a subject can have a huge impact on how, and whether, people (especially teenagers) engage with it. That in itself could be something worth discussing with the pupils! After learning more about it, what do they think it should be called? There are many different views on this forum and MANY different names to choose from:
ASD - autistic spectrum disorder / ASC - autistic spectrum condition / AS - Asperger's syndrome / ND - neuro-diverse / autism / Autism / HFA - high-functioning autism / LFA - low-functioning autism / and many others for the range of other 'conditions' on the autism spectrum including PDA - pathological demand avoidance .
It matters: How many takers for Pointless P.E? Boring History? Fascinating Physics?
Thank you for such a great response!! I had thought about the famous people link, however, I would need to pick someone who is inspirational to teens, as most of the individuals I mentioned to a little focus group laughed at the idea. I still want to pursue this avenue of thought for sure. I love the idea you suggested about asking the kids to help make the academy more ASD friendly - it led to me setting up a little group of students to help me with this.
I hate labels and have done for the majority of my life, I think I will simply refer to the condition as "Autism" to prevent any further confusion for our teenagers. As an employee who works in an educational facility, I have to used the terms we are given so we can label individuals so to provide the best support possible. I had no idea my use of words deemed fit by the medical profession, and government policy makers to describe our gifts (as I call them), would be so emotive for some.
Once again thank you for your inciteful response, it was most helpful!
There are a few autistic celebrities who might be interesting examples: I just mentioned Ladyhawke (Pip Brown) on another thread, and there are few people cooler than Craig Nicholls of The Vines or Gary Numan. There's also Daryl Hannah and Dan Ackroyd who they've probably seen in at least one old film? One psychiatrist, Michael Fitzpatrick, reckons Mozart was autistic. Just showing the Chris Packham documentary 'Asperger's and Me' might open people's eyes to sensory sensitivities and social awkwardness.
To balance that, is there any possibility of a student with autism volunteering to speak to the class, or even at assembly? I think it is really important that everyone feels included as social pressures can first start to bite in early teenage years. I can think of some materials for younger kids (Pablo on CBeebies), but not sure about secondary school. There are the stereotypical aspie men in Community, Big Bang Theory, IT Crowd. Atypical was not bad. I'm not really sure about literature, but Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time is a good novel, regardless of its other merits. This is a fun BBC3 video, but it might need to have bits bleeped if played in front of the headteacher:
If you think the staff have already reached 'autism awareness', you can push forwards with what are the next steps according to Prof Stephen Shore: autism acceptance, and even autism appreciation. You could also have a quiz about what all those abbreviations mean!