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SEND Hub helping improve education standards this Autism Acceptance Day


This Autism Acceptance Week, a teaching school centre in Leicestershire is helping to share sector-leading expertise to educators. 
Leicestershire and Rutland Teaching School Hub (LRTSH), in partnership with Birch Wood Special School, launched its SEND and Inclusion Hub earlier this year to help education professionals support increasing numbers of young people presenting with special educational needs and disabilities. 
Birch Wood Special School has recently been successful in earning its advanced autism accreditation with the National Autistic Society. The Autism Accreditation Programme is the UK’s only autism specific quality assurance programme and achieving accreditation proves that an organisation is committed to understanding autism and setting the standard for autism practice. 
Leaders at the school are passionate about sharing that best practice to other educators so that young people get the best possible support. 
To help share that knowledge, the school has partnered with LRTSH to deliver support through a dedicated SEND and Inclusion Hub. The hub provides training and workshops to help teachers. 

Amy Dunstan deputy head for behaviour and culture at Birch Wood School

Amy Dunstan, deputy head for behaviour and culture at Birch Wood School, which caters for students aged four to 19, said she was keen to use this week to celebrate difference. 
“At Birch Wood we refer to this week as Autism Celebration Week – an opportunity to celebrate difference and bask in the wonder of neurodiversity.  

“The autism spectrum is diverse, but all autistic people have common areas of difference, as well as individual areas of strength, need and interest.” 

And she said there are some tips schools and colleges can follow to support students of all ages. 
Tips for supporting Autistic Students 

  • A relationship-based approach 

Relationships take time to build and establish, give time and effort to this process and remember: ‘Connection before Correction.’ 

  • Minimise distractions 

Classrooms should be as distraction free as possible. Clutter should be avoided, keeping arousal levels low. Rooms should be clearly laid out, with designated areas for specific activities wherever possible. 

For example, an area for group work, a space where independent work can take place and a reading/chill out area. Consider labelling classroom cupboards etc, so it is clear where things belong in order to encourage independence.  

  • Consider difficult times of the day 

Make simple adjustments to ease potentially difficult times of the day. For example, meet and greet time with a trusted adult each morning. Leaving lessons early or late to avoid the busy transition time. A designated area/seat/space at the back of the assembly hall. A quieter space to eat lunch. 

  • Clear, consistent and predictable classroom routines  

Routines ensure that the students know what to do when they arrive at the class. These routines may include completing a timetable in the morning, having an agreed role/job at the start of each lesson or completing a predictable Starter Activity. 

Within a clearly labelled room, these routines could also encourage independence by allowing students to collect the equipment needed for the session. One of our students said ‘I like it in this class, when I arrive the first activity is always up on the whiteboard- I like being able to see it, and it’s my job to hand out the books to my friends. I know what to do as soon as I get there.’  

  • Carefully think about transitions 

Transitions need to be planned and shared with the students. If an autistic student is joining your school or class, consider timings of initial visits (quieter and less busy times). Create an introduction pack with photos of the room and key people, that the student can read through and re-visit in their own time. Consider using pre-recorded video introductions from new staff that students can watch before meeting new teachers/staff. This way they can see a new face and hear a new voice before the first real ‘introduction.’ 

Director of LRTSH, Kay Shepherd, said the SEND and Inclusion Hub was already helping large numbers of staff improve their practices. 
“Since partnering to offer the Hub with Birch Wood Special School, we have already delivered training to nearly 100 teachers, helping them to better support students in their classrooms so they can achieve their full potential. 
“The education sector isn’t just about teaching, it is about learning, and it is vital we continue to share and learn new and successful ways of supporting our young people while celebrating difference.” 
Anyone wanting more support and information about the SEND and Inclusion Hub can email [email protected] 


For more information contact Kirsty on 07970627385 or email [email protected] 

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