I have been presenting to teachers in the last few weeks – looking at what the experience of autistic students is like and how to maximise potential and help the spectrum kids to achieve success. I have been really impressed with the openness and interest demonstrated by these teachers as they listen to me talk about myself and a variety of other autistic spectrum people and our experiences of school and life.
For me one of the most heartening aspects has been the desire of most of these teachers to ensure the kids not only have a positive experience of school but that they be enabled to work in ways that minimise stress for those on the autistic spectrum. This sounds like it should be commonplace, but in actuality a lot of educational facilities are set up and run in ways that are inherently stressful for autistic spectrum students. For example; open plan learning spaces, lots of group work and fluorescent lighting.
By far and away the biggest shift I am noticing is one of growing willingness to accept the reality of difference and the valuing of the skills and interests of autistic spectrum students. Research has validated the existence of self-fulfilling prophecies in the educational context and it is heartening to hear that more teachers have a greater belief in the potential of their autistic spectrum students, because their students will take on board these positive attitudes and so believe that they can achieve and therefore they will.