The Seven Keys To Open The World Of An Autistic Child ! Part One

Course overview


PART 1: Keys 1 to 3
Key 1:  Effective Parental Engagement
Key 2:  Personalised Learning
Key 3:  Addressing Sensory Needs

Part 2: Keys 4 to 7
Key 4:  Effective Communication Approach
Key 5:  Self Regulation and Managing Emotions
Key Six: An Autism Friendly Environment
Key Seven: Managing Change

An Introduction:      

  • What is Autism?
  • What are the characteristics of Autism?
  • What challenges do children with autism have?

In the introductory session, you will:

Develop awareness of Autism

Identify the characteristics and indicators of children with autistic spectrum difficulty

Develop awareness of the challenges faced by children with autism

Triad of Impairments:

->Social Understanding

What is Autism?

  • Autism is a developmental disability that impairs a child’s natural instinct to communicate and form relationships.
  • A diagnosis of autism is defined by deficits in three major areas, including social skills, communication skills, and restricted patterns of interests or behaviours (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). As a result, a child’s ability to communicate with and relate to other people, including their experience of the world around them is severely impaired.

What are the characteristics of Autism?

The characteristics of autism vary considerably across children and within an individual child over time.

  • Verbal and non-verbal communication difficulties
  • Social interaction difficulties
  • Poor imaginative play
  • Repetitive behaviour
  • Difficulties in managing change
  • Sensory impairment

What are the indicators of Autism? (Preschool children)

  • Limited eye contact
  • Limited interest in activities and events
  • Poor recall of information, events and story sequence
  • Limited imaginative skills and limited interest in purposeful play
  • Poor social and communication skills
  • Limited understanding of age appropriate speech sounds
  • Unclear speech which is difficult to understand
  • Use of repeated language or learnt phrases that has no meaning
  • Lack of awareness of danger
  • Increased sensitivity to sound, light and other sensory stimuli

What are indicators of Autism? (School Age Children)

  • Persistent use of repeated language or learnt phrases that have no meaning
  • Inability to express needs and/or feelings or show empathy
  • Shows little interest in other people including peers
  • Signs of frustration as a result of inability to communicate
  • Difficulty in understanding simple words or basic instructions
  • Finds it difficult to join in conversations, play with others or take turns
  • Difficulty in following instructions and undertake class activities
  • Displays signs of anxiety and has difficulty making friends
  • Unable to cope with change
  • Displays anxiety in busy, noisy situations
  • Finds it difficult to cope with unstructured situations

What is the ‘autistic child’ typically good at?

  • Memory
  • Details
  • Routine
  • Sameness
  • Sequences
  • Visual Processing
  • Systems

What challenges do children with autism have?

Children with autism have difficulties with:

  • Socialcommunication
  • Social interaction and
  • Social imagination, including difficulties understanding abstract concepts or participating in role play
  • Problems processing sensory input, (children with autistic spectrum disorder) which may affect their senses, especially levels of noise.

Activity 1:

  • List the common characteristics of autism?
  • What challenges does an autistic child have?
  • List five things that an autistic child are good at?
  • List five indicators of autism for a preschool child?
  • List five indicators of autism for a school age child?

In the first key, you will:

Develop awareness of the role ‘Parents as partners’ in their children’s care and education

Develop of importance of sharing background information about children’s ‘starting points’

Why parental Engagement?

  • Experts agree that active involvement of parents in the care and education of children with autism is vital to success.
  • This is because the exchange of information about the child’s needs, interests and changes in behaviour assists staff in careful planning of activities that is specific to the needs of each child
  • The best inheritance a parent can give to their children is a few minutes of their time each day’ (O.A Battista)
  • Parental engagement is a powerful factor in raising attainment in schools generally (Harris and Goodall, 2007).

KEY ONE: Effective Parent Engagement

  • Purposeful engagement with parents provides opportunities for parents to contribute to assessment which facilitates continuity in learning
  • Baseline assessment information of what children ‘know and can do’ assists staff in early identification of the gaps in children’s knowledge and skills
  • Background information on pupils interests are useful in compiling ‘special objects of reference, ‘life in a bag’(personal objects that illustrate a child’s milestones

KEY ONE:  Effective Parental Engagement

Information shared by parents is subsequently used to:

  • Plan next steps for learning
  • Set personalised behaviour, pastoral and learning targets
  • ‘Set the scene’ for learning to ensure an enabling learning environment
  • Structure child’s individual learning programme

KEY ONE: Effective Parental Engagement

  • It is widely reported that children with autism can display different behaviour at home to when they are at school. This is because of their limited ability to cope in a structured learning environment and their high levels of anxiety
  • Strong parental engagement ensure valuable exchange of information which assists teachers in careful planning of the child’s unique needs.
  • Keeping a home/school communication book ensures a consistent communication approach and reinforces learning

KEY ONE: Effective Parental Engagement (Summary Tips)

  • Engage with parents early in planning children’s individual needs
  • Enlist parent support in devising a pastoral and behaviour and learning plan
  • Involve parents in identifying personal targets
  • Share information with parents regularly
  • Provide opportunities for parents to contribute to assessments of their children’s learning
  • Provide regular opportunities for parents to share concerns and build relationships with other parents as part of a ‘parents support group’

Activity 2: Quiz Questions:

  1. What are the benefits of engaging with parents?
  2. How do Practitioners use the information provided by parents?
  3. What background information about a child would you require from parents to assist in planning?

Answers to quiz questions 2

  • Engagement with parents allows parents to share valuable information about the child’s interests, needs abilities or specific difficulties
  • Practitioners use the background information to plan activities that addresses the identified needs
  • Useful information to be obtained from the parents include; dietary needs, listening and speaking skills, behaviour concerns, sensory needs, favourite activities, dislikes, social skills, independence skills anxiety issues such as separation anxiety and personal care needs, calming strategies

Activity 3:

What background information will you need to form a profile about an autistic child?

Use the template in the next slide to gather this information.

Response to activity 3:

  1. Speech development, clear, unclear, repetitive speech, limited eye contact, sensory needs
  2. Medical/additional needs, allergies, dietary requirements etc
  3. Understands and follow instructions. Recognise letters and sounds in their names. Mark making/drawing/writing skills.
  4. Name, gender, family background/composition, culture and religion. Home language and other languages.
  5. Confident/shy. Joins in activities Favourite toys, likes and dislikes.
  6. Personal and social skill development, any behaviour concerns Independence level. Turn-taking and sharing. Care and toileting needs.

Sample display about a child’s background:

In the second key, you will:

Develop awareness of a personalised learning approach

Identify the key elements of a personalised learning programme

Develop awareness of the range of strategies to facilitate positive child engagement

KEY TWO: Personalised Learning

What is a personalised learning?

The Gilbert Review (2007) defined personalised learning as:

  • a highly structured and responsive approach to each child’s and young person’s learning, in order that all are able to progress, achieve and participate
  • It strengthens the link between learning and teaching by engaging pupils – and their parents – as partners in learning
  • A ‘have a go culture’ promotes ‘risk taking’ and a genuine interest in active participation in new experiences to find things out for themselves

KEY TWO: Personalised Learning

A personalised learning plan must include:

  • Personalised learning targets
  • A personalised activity schedule

Personalised Learning:

  • How well do you know your children? Are personalised learning needs accurately identified?
  • Have you taken account of each child’s needs, interests, noise tolerance levels, ability to cope with change?
  • Have you used the outcome of baseline assessment information to identify ‘next steps’ for learning?
  • Have you clarified what children are ‘to learn and do’ on the personalized learning plan?

Personalised Learning

Some points to think about for a personalized activity schedule:

  • Use visual prompts to enable children to make meaningful links between activities.
  • Provide adult support to assist children in engaging a focused activity for short periods of time
  • Using a set of pictures and simple words to describe scheduled activities prepares children for getting ready to learn.
  • Provide a clear representation of the activity that the child is to undertake in a format that the child easily understands
  • Provide a visual behaviour management plan for children who may find independent management of their behaviour difficult

Personalised Learning

Prompts for  purposeful adult/child interaction sessions

  • Are there opportunities for communicating and modelling of language?
  • Do you use visual prompts to explain and demonstrate learning expectations?
  • What systems are available to inform children on how well they are doing? i.e. visual/verbal feedback
  • Are there opportunities to facilitate, prompt and use questions?
  • Is there a consistent positive reinforcement system?
  • Are there opportunities to develop independent learning?
  • Is there sufficient challenge and high expectations?

Personalised Learning

Monitoring progress:   Think about-

  • Tracking the ‘small steps’ of progress (including skills progression) pupils make from their starting points
  • Active promotion of a ‘distraction free environment’ where learning can take place, as well as taking full account of pupils needs, emotion, alert state?
  • How you promote independent learning once interest has been generated through ‘objects of reference’
  • How you build on current learning, introduce new ideas, experiences and challenge thinking whilst sustaining interest/ focus
  • Building confidence through positive reinforcement and active, experiential learning

Personalised Learning (Helpful tips)

  • Explain the expectations for learning, provide a visual step by step guide
  • Clarify steps to success, show pupils ‘what they are learn’ and ‘what they are to do’ to achieve learning expectations
  • Promote independence by encouraging pupils to make initial attempts
  • Only intervene when necessary, to avoid pupils overreliance on adult support
  • Ensure pupils have access to support, provide reassurance and maintain focus

Personalised Learning

The success of a personalised learning programme is highly dependent on a robust  whole school training programme.

  • “Teacher development needs to be linked with wider goals of school and system development, and with appraisal and feedback practices and school evaluation.” (Webster et al, 2012)
  • “Effective professional development needs to be on-going, include training, practice and feedback, and provide adequate time and follow-up support. Successful programmes involve teachers in learning activities that are similar to those they will use with their students, and encourage the development of teachers’ learning communities.” (Webster et al, 2012)
  • Staff must undertake regular specialist autism training to develop their confidence and master the skills required to enhance pupils learning

Personalised Learning (Summary Tips)

  • Pupils should be actively involved in practical activities, including opportunities for sensorial learning experiences
  • Clear thought and planning must be given to grouping the pupils and deploy staff to ensure that pupils’ independent learning requirements are effectively addressed
  • There must be clarity of role of the practitioner
  • Learning outcomes must be clear and linked to pupils learning targets
  • Activities must be differentiated and sufficiently challenging to extend pupils learning

 Activity 4: Quiz questions

  • Why is it important to have a personalised learning programme?(PLP)
  • What must you include in a personalised learning programme?
  • What are the five key issues to think about when planning a PLP?
  • Why is it important to use visual cues in a personalised learning plan?
  • What are the main things to consider when monitoring pupils progress?

Answers to quiz questions 4

  • A PLP is a structured and individual plan that addresses each pupil’s specific needs
  • A PLD must include a personalised target and activity schedule
  • Key issues to consider are; needs, interest, noise tolerance, ability to cope with change, starting points, clarity of learning expectations and next steps
  • A visual cue helps the pupil to develop meaningful routines and to make a connection between the picture, sign symbol or word to an actual object or activity

In the third key, you will:

Develop awareness of steps to take to keep pupils calm and ready to learn’

Explore the benefits of exercise and regular breaks on reducing pupils’ anxiety levels

 KEY THREE: Addressing Sensory Needs

  • Pupils with autism are often very sensitive to light, taste, smell, touch, sound, balance and body awareness
  • They find if difficult to relax and maintain focus for long periods of time.
  • Consequently, their sensory needs must be addressed in order to avoid disruptions to learning
  • It is therefore crucial to incorporate regular therapy sessions into the daily structure of activities to avoid a major ‘melt down’

KEY THREE: Addressing Sensory Needs

  • Supporting pupils in finding a way to relax regularly avoids frustration and minimise disruptions to learning
  • Pupils must have regular short breaks during activities to allow pupils time out to ‘let off steam’ and ‘recharge’

KEY THREE: Addressing Sensory Needs

  • Incorporating therapy as part of each day’s day activities contributes to enjoyable learning experiences
  • Supporting pupils skills development through regular therapy sessions are empowering ways of assisting pupils discover what they may be good at.

KEY THREE: Addressing Sensory Needs

  • Because of the active and practical nature of activities, pupils engage well when therapy sessions are an integral part of their day.
  • Therapy sessions has a positive impact on pupils’ personal development

KEY THREE: Addressing Sensory Needs

Regular Therapy sessions such as:

  • Art, music, play therapy sessions are effective ways of creative expression opportunities which autistic pupils enjoy and often excel in.
  • The sessions provide a means of self-expression and communication which can be used by verbal and non-verbal autistic pupils.

KEY THREE: Addressing Sensory Needs

  • Swimming, exercise, sensory circuit sessions, short walks, and regular breaks are helpful mechanisms that enable pupils to reduce their anxiety levels.
  • Provision of short ‘time out’ sessions during which pupils spend time on their favourite activities, listen to music or sing enable them to remain calm and happy

KEY THREE: Addressing Sensory Needs (Key Questions)

  • Is there a practical and sensory approach to the curriculum for pupils with complex needs?
  • Is there provision for a selection of sensory/tactile materials to to facilitate sensory stimulation?
  • Is there an accessible well resourced sensory room?
  • Is there a ‘time out’/ quiet room that pupils could access to have some personal space?

Activity 5: Quiz Questions

  • What things are autistic children likely to be sensitive to?
  • Suggest a range of relaxation sessions that you would provide to support children’s needs for ‘regular breaks
  • List five examples of sensory/tactile resources/materials that you will provide to ensure children’s needs for ‘time out’

Answers to quiz questions 5

  • Autistic children are usually sensitive to light, touch, taste, smell, sound and balance
  • Relaxation sessions could be music and movement, swimming, access to sensory room with visual tactile and auditory stimulation
  • Examples of resources include: soft balls, vibrating cushions, spinning top, bubbles, musical instruments


Thank you!

For additional information about our courses or to book a training and consultancy visit, kindly email us at

For more information on our services please visit our website on www.schoolspeerexchange .com or visit our Facebook page at

Tweet us at