From education to employment

Walk a Mile in My Shoes: Learners with Autism and Neurodiversity

Annie Pendrey, Professional Development Manager, Halesowen College

In my role as Professional Development Manager at Halesowen College, and lead trainer for Autism, I had the privilege to present my work at #SETCONF19 the Society of Education Conference in Birmingham, presenting to my fellow FE professionals.

In the very week that Oliver’s Campaign witnessed the announcement that all health workers are to receive autism and learning difficulty training I presented ‘Walk a Mile in My Shoes: a presentation on Neurodiversity and Raising Awareness of Autism’.

The harsh reality that a tragic loss and tireless campaigning by Oliver’s mother, Paula McGowan, will now see all NHS staff receive mandatory training on awareness of Autism became a debate within the breakout session of the conference and followed up on #UKFECHAT, where as professionals we considered should this also be offered to all educators.

As an FE institution, we are developing a whole saturation approach to raising awareness of autism and my work involves training an enthusiastic team of trainers to ensure a rhizomatic culture. Our vision is to train every single member of staff, exploring neurodiversity and celebrate difference not deficit.

Every member of staff is undertaking a raising awareness module, exploring how we build relationships with our learners, examining the curriculum, exploring how we adapt environments, pedagogical approaches, how we use assistive technology and the possible embedding of ipsative assessments to teaching to enable full and inclusive participation.

This synergy between my current work and my Early Years background allows me to reflect and revisit the work of Montessori, whose work resonates with me still today. I recall how she suggested that every child’s / learner’s intelligence is a seed and how as educators we ensure they have the conditions to grow and flourish.

My presentation at the SET conference posed the question to the delegates, as to how we ensure this, how do we provide a neurodiverse classroom, environment and culture where every neurodivergent learner grows, and how each learner needs their educator to provide a heat of ‘flaming imagination’ in an environment that is teeming with growth, inclusion, diversity, respect and provides a place of ease.

The place of ease has to continue for our learners when navigating the social world and engaging in employability or vocational training and so as a result we are working with employers to offer raising awareness training. The ripples of the SET conference and my work in my FE institution continues – rhizomatic!

Annie Pendrey, Professional Development Manager, Halesowen College

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