More Welsh schools are being encouraged to participate in the ‘Learning with Autism’ programmes, aimed at raising awareness of autism among children and young people.
The ‘Learning with Autism’ programme is aimed at raising awareness among children and young people of autism and how it affects autistic individuals. The programme helps the whole school community have a better understanding and acceptance of autism and the opportunity to learn in a safe and supported environment. Focusing on whole school settings, all pupils, teaching staff and learning support assistants are required to take part to successfully complete the programme.
The National ASD Development Team - which is funded by Welsh Government, hosted by the WLGA and works closely with Public Health Wales - has been rolling out the programme since its initial launch in primary schools in 2016.
To date, 3,624 teaching staff have successfully completed the teacher scheme, 4,043 people have successfully completed the Learning Support Assistant scheme and 20,397 children have completed the superhero scheme.
Primary schools have a free set of materials available to them at Key Stage 1 and 2 in colourful story and comic book formats, where children are encouraged to become “Autism Superheroes”, and sign a pledge and receive a personalised certificate once they’ve read the book.
Mr Clive Williams of Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth said:
“The pupils responded really well to the superhero programme. Some pupils that already have a diagnosis felt that they wanted to share their experiences. Other pupils demonstrated empathy and were eager to show their support. It was almost as if they were relieved to be able to be informed on the subject so that they understood why some pupils need to be supported in a different way to them.
“The child-friendly resources were the highlight of the programme for us as a school. We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Learning with Autism Programme to other schools.”
Since September 2017, the programme has also been adapted and expanded to both Early Years and secondary school settings.
The early years ‘Learning with Autism’ Scheme helps develop young children’s acceptance of being different and more understanding of differences. The programme helps staff develop their knowledge and skills to support young autistic children.
The secondary school ‘Learning with Autism’ programme focuses on a training scheme for staff to develop their knowledge and differentiate their teaching to support autistic young people. Seven secondary schools across five local authority areas have so far completed this programme.
Councillor Huw David (Bridgend), WLGA Spokesperson for Health and Social Care said:
“I am very heartened to see so many early years and school settings having successfully completed the free ‘Learning with Autism’ programme, and I look forward to seeing more primary schools making use of the excellent free to use resources. It is vital that we raise awareness of ASD to better support autistic individuals and understand their needs.”
Councillor Debbie Wilcox (Newport), WLGA Leader and Spokesperson for Education said:
”As a former teacher myself, I know how important it is to understand children’s needs in order to be able to support them to develop as individuals. Schools have a lot to deliver as part of the curriculum but awareness and knowledge of neuro diversity, including ASD is really very important in increasing acceptance and understanding.”
For more information on how to take part in ‘Learning with Autism’ or to access the vast suite of free to use resources, please visit www.ASDinfoWales.co.uk