Sharing knowledge, information and practical advice related to autism, as well as conversations with autistic individuals, parents, carers, teachers, educational professionals and service providers. Hosted by Steph Reed, an Autism Specialist Teacher and Consultant in London, UK.
#12 Understanding Autism and Learning
Well the past few months have been, I don’t know how to describe it… absolutely crazy! It’s been very strange, difficult and challenging. There’s been highs. There’s been lows, but fundamentally, things have changed. Things are different. Things are uncertain. I know that we’ve all had our own experience and our own journey and our own challenges. So I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well.If you have your own children, I hope that you are all in one piece and that you have managed to have some kind of quality time together.
If you’re a key worker, we love you!Parents, we love you! Teachers, we love you. Thank you to everybody!Now things for myself, and Autism Spectrum Teacher (which is myself!) have been very challenging because like perhaps yourself or others you know, I was without any work. My work before the COVID-19 pandemic was in schools, supporting staff, families, SENCO”S and teachers, developing SEND provision and practice.Of course, then schools closed and I was unable to support the schools, and families in the same way that I would have done before. Now, we’ve all been managing the best that we could from a distance. To a point that’s helping some people, but of course I wanted to do more and essentially, I needed to keep everything that Autism Spectrum Teacher and myself does including all of the projects and this podcast.
This is the reason why I’ve had to put the podcast on hold for the past couple of months, because it is fully funded by myself. Without those means of ensuring stability for the podcast, I couldn’t continue it. However, I have some plans and I have put things in motion. I want to tell you all about the future plans!We’ve all had to adapt, right? And to be honest, I’ve been really pleased with how some of the children have adapted! You know, sometimes we really do fear the worst don’t we!? Of course there have been many challenges and a lot more challenges I would say, but we’ve got to stick to the positive here. There have been some children that have really surprised us.
Now, this episode and the next seven podcast episodes are going to sound very different to previous episodes.There is a theme that will be running through this and the next seven podcasts. And that is that… I’m very pleased and proud to announce that… I have released a series of online training courses, which gives a lot of concise and digestible information as well as practical strategies and how to apply these in real day life.There’s a lot of information out there, but I’ve designed these courses to give you the key information, how to do different types of strategies in order so that you can go away and apply them straight away, especially because we know how personalised strategies and tailored strategies are really needed as every child is so different.So this is my way right now to be able to support teachers, teaching assistants, SENCO’s, parents, carers, and anyone who is supporting an autistic child. The eight courses are all based around different themes.
#11 Ideas to help children at home during the COVID-19 crisis
This is a live recording from a Facebook Live I hosted this week. It took place in a group aimed at general support through the Covid-19 Crisis, in the island of Jersey, where I am from.I took this opportunity to talk to parents and carers about potential strategies that could be helpful for families with children with special needs, when spending all day at home. I also answered questions that came up during the Facebook Live.
We are living in difficult and unpredictable times. This is very challenging for all of us, most especially those with additional needs.Every family has very different needs, as well as access to different sized space and resources.We all have very different circumstances and therefore we need to think about what is manageable for our unique circumstances.We want to try to avoid becoming stressed.Stressed parents and carers equals stressed children.Recognise how we are modelling being calm and if there is anything we can do further to support the children to be calm. If we show that we are anxious, our children will inevitably also be anxious.
Do what is manageable in our own, unique circumstancesGo back over previous advice from professionals, this will be specific to your child’s needs and there may be helpful strategies that you can implement at home. Everyone’s needs are so different.
Creating calm times throughout the dayDo some calming activities together.Examples of calming activities could be: listening to soothing music, massage on hands or feet with cream, sensory play or looking at a book. What are some activities that have a calming effect on your child? Is this something you can do together? Is this something the child prefers to do alone? Can you structure this into the daily routine at specific times, to create a familiar and predictable pattern?
Movement activities throughout the dayAlerting and energising movement activities are great to get the body moving, get children exercising and also using any hyperactive energy!It can be helpful to structure in times throughout the day where movement activities take place. At school, I would often structure movement activities before we took part in learning, to get the children’s bodies all warmed up and regulated. This would often get them ready to focus on the learning task. For some children, I would have very regular movement breaks, such as every half an hour. It depends on the needs of the child, but for some very active children, this can be very helpful for them to keep their bodies moving.Ideas for movement breaks include: a circuit or a visual structure of different exercises (such as star jumps and stretches), rolling the ball to each other, a dancing,
#10 Learning through technology with Zafer Elcik Co-Founder of Otsimo
Zafer Elcik is the Co Founder of the Otsimo app, which has over 100 educational games created specifically with the needs of autistic learners in mind.
It was great to speak to Zafer as my special guest in this episode of the podcast, and hear about the story of Otsimo!Zafer works alongside educators, speech and language therapists and families to develop educational games aimed at learning different concepts, as well as a free open source AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) tool for nonverbal children, in Turkish and English.
Zafer is from Ankara, Turkey, where it is estimated that 90% of autistic children do not get an education. The Turkish government offers children with special needs only 12 hours of education per month.When Zafer got his first smartphone, his autistic brother Alper took a special interest and quickly learnt to navigate the phone. Zafer realised that this was an excellent opportunity to use the smartphone to teach his brother.At the time, Alper was 6 years old, non verbal and could not read or write, however he could find pictures on the smart phone to communicate. There wasn’t many apps which focused on the learning priorities of children with special needs in mind. For example, they had too much information, animation or colours on the screen, which can be visually overwhelming and cause distraction.Alongside his university friend and Alper’s teacher, Zafer created simple educational games. The first game he made was aimed at teaching colours and he was so impressed with how Alper learnt through the app, where other methods had not seemed successful.
More educational games followed with concepts such as money, reading, mark making, shapes and Social Stories. Otsimo also now has a free AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) app to help non verbal individuals to communicate.A lot of children are really motivated by the cause and effect elements of using tablet and smartphone apps and this can be really engaging for them.Otsimo wants to give families an opportunity to be part of teaching concepts through the use of the app. Supporting families to be part and sharing the educational journey with giving a framework of teaching concepts, social skills and communication.The app also aim to tech vocabulary can then be further taught and extended in practical contexts, which will help children to understand and generalise vocabulary.Zafer is working with the Ministry of Education in Turkey, trying to close the gap by giving a tool to support teaching using the app.
Watch Zafer and Alper in the BBC world hacks video BBC World Hacks ‘How brotherly love led to an app to help thousands of autistic children’
I hope you enjoyed this episode of the podcast!For more information about Otsimo, visit:
#9 The need to chew! Supporting sensory needs with Jenny McLaughlan, founder of Chewigem
In this episode of the podcast, it was a pleasure to speak with Jenny McLaughlan, the founder of Chewigem.As well as being a support community for different sensory needs, Chewigem have designed and created a range of chewing, fidget and sensory aids for children and adults.
Sensory needsOur brain processes the sensory information around us; what we see, hear, smell, taste and touch, as well as how it makes us feel; temperature, balance and pain. Some people, including many autistic individuals, may experience extremely heightened senses where sensory input is exceptionally amplified, or on the other hand, barely registered. This differs from person to person and presents differently in each individual.
Sensory seekingFor individuals with under sensitive senses, they may seek out different sensations in order to get the sensory feedback.Examples of sensory seeking behaviours include chewing or repeatedly seeking out sensations such as smells or touch through hugs, tight clothing or feeling specific textures.
ChewigemIn the podcast episode, Jenny tells us the story behind Chewigem. How it started as a baby chew and expanded to support people of all ages.‘Chewies’, ‘chew toys’ or sensory supports can help those to receive sensory input, in a safe way. For example, I have taught children who will chew on their clothes, toys or anything around them.Jenny explains how Chewigem is supporting the community by providing supports that have been purposely made for the function of giving sensory feedback, such as wearable chewing resources such as these:
Chewigem also provides support to help those needing advice on how to find the right supports for individual sensory needs on their website and a href="https://www.
#8 Enhancing communication opportunities: Autism and learning disabilities
Total Communication is using all the different types of communication, speech, body language, tone of voice, Makaton sign, symbols, pictures, objects all to enhance communication. This is really important for those with learning difficulties, to support communication. In this episode, I discuss and pose questions about enhancing the environment both at school and home through adapting our environment, our teaching approach and resources.
#7 Supporting reading with Angela Charalambous from the Workshop Reading Centre
This episode of the podcast is all about supporting children with reading and my special guest is Angela Charalambous, a reading specilaist from the Workshop Reading Centre in Johannesburg.
A child’s reading ability will have a huge impact on all areas of learning.
Angela discusses different strategies to support a child to enjoy reading and feel more confident!
Classroom strategies to support children who have reading difficulties
Making learning multisensory
Using visual supports such as pictures and objects
Enabling children to present their work in different formats
Using the child's interests
Accommodating sensory needs and ensuring child is comfortable
Breaking down work into manageable chunks
Giving an outline of lesson and tasks
Giving explicit instructions
Maintain a love of reading
Read with the child in 3 different areas:
Easy material for the child such as a simple book below age level, in order to boost confidence
Reading age appropriate material
Reading at a challenging or above age level, perhaps in the child’s area of interest to ensure their motivation
Parents and carers, continue reading with your child as long as you can, especially themes that are of interest to the child. Spending time reading with parents supports to manifest a love of reading.
Ensuring children’s confidence in their reading is key
Thank you Angela!
Visit the Workshop Reading Centre website to find out more information about the assessments, dyslexia screening, Cellfield intervention and workshops for parents and teachers that Angela mentioned in the podcast episode.
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I’m a Behavioral Technician and honestly by listening by one of her podcast I was able to gain some pointers to use in my practice. I re listen to this podcast every morning before I head to work
As an administrator, teachers are always looking for assistance. We do not have a unit in our building, but some parents would like their autistic child mainstreamed. Just listening to one Episode has helped my teachers immensely work to communicate and improve the performance of autistic children in a typical classroom. Thank you for your resources, Strategies, and advice.