Research

Our vision is to become an International Centre of Excellence for Autism Education, Research and Development

Weekly news from Autism Research and Development +

The boxes below contain weekly news from our school’s Autism Research and Development. Click to expand.

Week 10 - Introduction+

Hello Abbot’s Lea School community

Today marks my 4th day on the job, and also my first newsletter. I will use this opportunity to introduce myself as a new Head of Autism Research and Development.

This long title genuinely summarises my interests by combining the SEND focus and the curiosity of research enquiry (the why and the how of everything we do). The word diversity comes up in all aspects of my education and work history – from degrees in Special Education and Educational Treatment of Diversity to teaching and research experience in four European countries. Diverse environments, language, culture, age, institution types… I can proudly say that I have seen a lot, but the biggest lesson I have learnt is that the real answers and value of diversity focuses on individuals before numbers and conversations before questionnaires.

That is what my new role is about. I am proud to be the person that bridges the gap between research and practice, between paper and action. I am here to have conversations, to observe, to focus on every aspect of our practice and its effect on the daily lives of our students at home. I am here to use my knowledge and skills to help our families and staff better connect and understand how global autism research can help us spot, support and prevent problems that we might not even see yet. Finally, I am here to be the link and voice of Abbot’s Lea School and its whole community to other schools, centres for autism, research institutions and national agencies.

This role is unique for school context. Not many schools have a person working on research and not many schools focus as much on the constant development of evidence-based practice. This unique strength of Abbot’s Lea School comes with a responsibility to lead change and create impact for the whole community – local, national and international. In a practical sense, it means that half of my time I will be working with our school teams developing skills and knowledge, while the other half will be focused on the outreach to others for sharing experience, bringing expertise to us and developing the picture of Abbot’s Lea School as the best specialist school in the world.

In the next newsletter, I will present you a few initiatives and projects which are aimed at developing communication my reach to all members of our school community.

My doors are now officially open and will stay open for all your questions and ideas

Week 11 - World Children’s Day+

Middle of November usually brings darker and colder days, but for me, this week has been full of bright ideas, exciting projects and warm greetings. As promised in the last newsletter, this week I will present a few initiatives focused on developing communication channels with families and wider community, as well as our students’ participation in marking of World Children’s Day virtual events.

National Autistic Society (NAS) Accreditation Process

I am extremely proud that 2019-20 has already seen us achieve the Career Aspiration Award with Educate, and the Foundation International School Award with British Council. I am also pleased to share with you that we have recently been shortlisted for the Communication Award 2020. Alongside numerous awards, our practice is regularly and rigorously evaluated by the National Autistic Society (NAS). I would like to mention and remind you of an online survey, which some of you have noticed in the ParentMail on Monday. The link, provided by the school’s NAS advisor, is there to give you an opportunity to share your views as part of our accreditation process. We would encourage as many parents to engage with this short survey, so that the responses can present our parents community as a whole.

World Children’s Day – 20th November 2020

Our school is committed to making the voice of our students heard and our local community aware of children and families living with Autism. Following our successful collaboration last year, we were invited to participate in marking of World Children’s Day 2020, organised by University of Liverpool and UNICEF under the Liverpool Child Friendly City initiative. Due to current restrictions, this year’s events are organised virtually, over Zoom. Abbot’s Lea School is participating by sharing our students’ video comments on the topic of health and wellbeing with the local research community. Additionally, one of our older students is joining students from other schools in Liverpool in a collaborative, online discussion this afternoon led by Children’s Services Team of Liverpool City Council. These events will create a dialogue and collaboration among children and researchers from our region in an effort to transform Liverpool into a child friendly city.

Communication channels and offered support

Last but not least, I want to make sure that the whole Abbot’s Lea community knows how to get to me with questions, ideas or issues. Apart from my email address and telephone number, you can follow my work or reach me directly on Twitter – my handle is @ALS_AutismRandD

If there are some questions about autism or wider topics you do not feel comfortable asking about directly, you can still send them to me using the anonymous question box [http://freesuggestionbox.com/pub/abmdlat ]. I will answer those using the latest research literature and share it in this newsletter. In other words, there are no stupid questions and no reasons to struggle alone.

Week 12 - Autism and Sleep+

Dear families, partners and friends of Abbot’s Lea School

This week I have two highlights for you – both demonstrating the power of good communication. In my work with external partners, communication and networking during the online events led to opportunities for participation in the Unicef training. On the other side, while focusing on support within the school, I heard about the struggles with bedtime some families experience and found recommended solutions in research. This newsletter summarises the key messages from the training as well as useful resources related to sleep.

Unicef UK Training

During this two-day training, I have discussed and analysed children’s right in practice with local researchers, social workers and community officers. Our aim was to find ways to work with children and young people as equal partners. Following one of our conclusions, I would like to remind everyone of the Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child:

Every child has the right to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously.

This article establishes the right of every child to be heard in matters affecting them and for their views to be listened to and acted upon. I would like to emphasise a diversity of communication tools and methods used in our school for that exact reason.

The golden rule of participatory work is “Nothing About Me Without Me”.

Autism and Sleep

According to a recent study published in the American Academy of Paediatrics, close to half of the autistic children and adults have significant difficulties with sleep.  These difficulties can include problems falling asleep, night waking, early-morning waking, and shorter overall sleeping time.  The cause of sleep problems has not been found, but there is evidence that sleep issues can worsen behavioural issues and difficulties with social interactions.

Remember: communication is the key for me to initiate projects that are relevant to you, so make sure your ideas reach me. You can contact me via email, phone or over social media.

Week 13 - Autism-Friendly Holiday Season part 1+

We have two more weeks of school this term, our classrooms are looking festive while our little elves are busy with crafting gifts and cards, singing songs and learning about international traditions. For many, this is the best time of year, but holidays are about the community and making sure every child and every person is safe and happy.

I would like to share my advice on how to have an autism-friendly holiday season.

 

Autism-Friendly Holiday Season (Part 1 – Decorations)

Unlike any other year, 2020 has brought more structure and control in terms of crowdedness, which will suit most autistic people. However, many other elements, like loud music, bright colourful lights and decorations could still create an additional sensory load.

To avoid sensory overload, it is important to decorate gradually. Avoid putting up the decorations when your child is sleeping – if possible, get them involved. Try to introduce changes into their environment one at the time, starting with the Christmas lights for (supervised) sensory play.

If your child is feeling anxious with Christmas lights and decorations, designate one room in the house (perhaps your child’s room) as a decoration-free zone. That way the room becomes a ‘safe place’ when decorations or changes are too much.

Alternatively, you can focus on digital decoration this year and set up holiday-themed screen saver on your computer or television. That way you will be able to stay in full control of sensory load in your home.

The last piece of advice is about new and intense perfumes. Often mentioned as one of the sensory triggers around holiday time is introduction of many new and intense smells in the familiar environment. Pick decorations which do not have added scent and ask your visitors to be gentle with perfumes.


Image source: Miriam Gwynne (twitter @GwynneMiriam) started a fun initiative under a hashtag #AutismAwarenessElf

Enjoy the holiday season!

Week 14 - Autism-Friendly Holiday Season part 2+

Dear families, partners and friends of Abbot’s Lea School

As we are approaching our last week of the term, holiday mood is all around. While for most it includes happiness and excitement, some are surely in anticipation of stressful, crowded events. This week, to continue my autism-friendly holiday season advice, I will focus on visitors and crowds.

Autism-Friendly Holiday Season (Part 2 – Visitors and Crowds)

Unlike any other year, 2020 has brought more structure and control in terms of crowdedness, which will suit most autistic people.

Whichever restriction tier your community is under, use this opportunity to create a plan of events and visitors together with your child. Talk about the plan often or keep it visible to create a sense of structure and order. Consider breaking up longer periods of holiday-special activities with something more familiar or with comfortable routines.

Decide on roles and tasks. Giving your child something to do reduces their stress about having lots of people in the house. Tasks can include taking visitors’ coats, offering snacks or other age-appropriate jobs that could be their focus during the day.

Prepare your visitors too. Use this opportunity and talk to the extended family and friends ahead of time. Remind them of your child’s likes and dislikes, common reactions and types of support they can offer. Instead of just hoping for the best, make an action plan. Holiday season can be stressful and triggering for all children, so make sure they are surrounded with calmness and support.

Where possible, try to organise a calm room or a space where a child (or an adult) can go when it all gets too much. Having an opportunity for some time alone, or with a supporting friend, can minimise stress and encourage self-regulation.

Last but not least, autism-friendly events. This year, all events are organised virtually, but participating from home means you are always in the front row, with your favourite snacks at hand. Parents can visit the link below and read more about planned performances:

https://www.autismtogether.co.uk/christmas2020/

Enjoy the holiday season!

Week 15 - Autism-Friendly Holiday Season part 3+

Dear families, partners and friends of Abbot’s Lea School

As we are approaching our last week of the term, holiday mood is all around. While for most it includes happiness and excitement, some are surely in anticipation of stressful, crowded events. This week, to continue my autism-friendly holiday season advice, I will focus on visitors and crowds.

Autism-Friendly Holiday Season (Part 3 – Gifts)

Use the festive season as a teaching opportunity

Help and encourage your child to give gifts. This provides an excellent opportunity to work on social skills, like thinking of other people’s needs and interests, and being kind and helpful. I support my daughter to make gifts for her family and friends. She also looks forward to actually giving out the presents as well.

Wrap up something familiar – play unwraping ahead of time (sensory activity)

Luke can’t really cope with opening presents, or will unwrap one or two then run away. So we wrap up his favourite big monkey which he always finds funny!

Gift ideas

If family and friends are struggling for ideas for Christmas presents, email them a link to a website of sensory toys or ask for cash which you can put together to buy that (probably) expensive toy!

Avoid marathon unwrapping sessions

Don’t feel all the presents have to be opened on Christmas morning in the traditional way. Our son would get so overwhelmed he couldn’t cope, so we find it much easier to give him a few gifts at a time over Christmas and Boxing Day. He opens them all in the end without any tantrums and is much calmer and happier, meaning we all have a far more enjoyable time!

Get gifts ready to go

When we give our daughter a gift, we make sure all packaging is removed, batteries are in, and it is set up ready to use as soon as she’s unwrapped it. For someone with limited attention and suspicion of new things it can make the difference between acceptance and rejection.

Enjoy the holiday season!

Week 16 - Introduction to Action Research+

Welcome back, everyone!

The start of this term was not easy for our staff or our families, but I am proud of the quick and thorough organisation we did as a team, which allows us to focus on education and support in the coming period. I am even more proud of the whole staff team, who managed to set aside all covid-related issues for a day and engage with our online INSET event on Monday.

We had discussions about every aspect of our School Development Plan and invited everyone’s comments and ideas for future. Until we analyse all comments and create a joint picture of our school development priorities, I would like to remind you of the research method I briefly introduced in my 5-minute talk.

Action research is a great way of helping you to make your practice more effective and more principled, but also, it is a great way of driving your own professional development. Action research can be defined as “a reflection and action upon the world, in order to transform it”. It translates into 3 key questions:

  1. WHAT: What do we want to change?
  2. HOW: How are we going to change it?
  3. EVIDENCE: How are we going to see that change?

Amateur and experienced researchers differ in their awareness of limitations. We cannot change the whole world with our small-scale action research projects, but we can change our immediate environment, which is a big part of our students’ worlds. For that reason, it is important that we keep in mind our strategic scope. That is:

  • Our school – our projects take place within our school site and community
  • Our vision – our projects help us become the best specialist school
  • Our methods – our projects are in line with positive behaviour support, restorative practice, SCERTS and other methods established in our practice

Our research projects and innovations should benefit our students. That can be accomplished very directly by improving our teaching and support, or in a more indirect way by making our processes more efficient, therefore ensuring more time or resources for direct student benefit.

We are also focusing the potential of these projects to be shared with other schools and organisations externally. We are proud of our practice and we want you to know that the school is behind you for making a visible impact.

I am still collecting your research ideas, so feel free to contact me with your vision of innovation. If you need more information, you can ask me or check out one of many online resources about action research:
https://www.teachertoolkit.co.uk/2019/09/22/research-project/

Take care, stay safe!

Week 17 - Remote Learning tips for Parents+

The second week of term was filled with external online events and webinars. I had an opportunity to gather experiences from families and practitioners on dealing with another national lockdown and changes it brings to education and our families’ lives. In our school, students would typically work with their class teams and individually with our team of therapists. Now, with home learning and remote services, the burden of physical guidance and engagement support falls on parents who need to be on hand and more involved than ever. Here are some tips for surviving and thriving in this challenging period:

  • Recognise your child’s avoidance attempts

While at home, students’ emotional expression and revolt connected to challenging schoolwork can be elevated. You will feel tempted to skip set activities that your child protests against (“just this one time”) because they are screaming and flailing, and everyone is exhausted! But from a functional behaviour perspective, that will make it even harder for students to return to those activities later. It’s important to reflect and to think long-term when it is incredibly compelling to disregard those goals in moments of distress. Rather than skipping the task or giving up, be creative – postpone, substitute or break the activity down with sensory activities, set it up in a different room or try to do it outside.

  • Structure the environment and time

Due to differences in development of emotional expression, problem-solving, planning and judgment, many autistic children and adults will struggle to see the wider picture and only react to what they see/feel/need in the moment. You can help them by structuring their environment and time – try creating a separate space dedicated to online school. Even if it’s a corner of their room, you are designating a place they can go to for school. You can have a timer or clock to assist them in managing expectation of duration of segments and create a routine either using visual/picture schedules or by setting it as alarms on digital devices (Alexa and other home assistants are especially useful for this).

  • Use daily life as a learning opportunity

Learning does not have to be always a separate sit-down moment. Try to generalize it. For example, estimate distances during a nature walk, count and measure ingredients while cooking, write letters to relatives, plan outfits based on the weather and seasonal changes. Focus on the key learning (you can find out about it from your class team) and make it a general topic throughout the day.

Week 18 - Zones of Regulation at home+

Dear families, partners and friends of Abbot’s Lea School

This week’s newsletter focuses on one of our evidence-based practices, Zones of Regulation. However, with the majority of our students now learning at home, it is important to explore ways in which we can make the Zones of Regulation an integral part of our remote teaching.

With these tips are aiming to replicate the classroom structure and routine at home while still respecting your family routines and situations. Many of the resources used in school can be created at home and many of the task and activities we do can be found online:

For more ideas on how to create easy homemade self-regulation resources, follow this link: https://www.zonesofregulation.com/covid-19-teaching-resources.html

Week 19 - Alternative and Augmented Communication+

Communication is powerful. Communication is a social process through which we send and receive messages, intentions and moods from one another. There are many forms of communication, but often there is an emphasis upon speech, which may not be possible, nor effective, for some autistic students. Using the Alternative and Augmented Communication (AAC) systems we are able to reach all students in the most appropriate way.

Symbol Systems:
There are a number of symbol systems in common use. They are typically designed to assist users who have difficulty understanding written language. Different symbols can be combined to suit different situations and can be designed to look like objects, images or even paragraphs when they are required. Symbols can be shown to a conversation partner in many different ways including on a computer screen, a paper chart, or in a communication book. These can be made by drawing the symbols, printing them out, or using some computer software to help produce them. An e example of symbol systems of communication we use in school is the Widgit Literacy software.

Signing and Gesture Systems:
Manual signing systems of communication are most commonly used in the Deaf community. Signing systems have the benefit of not needing any additional resources or materials for communication, but they can take some time to learn. Apart from sign language, which is widely known and used, Makaton is an alternative designed for people with learning or communication difficulties.

Text-Based:
This is the method of using handwritten or computer-generated text to communicate with another person. The benefit of this system is that it can be used spontaneously and understood by most people. It can also be used by storing pre-written texts if that is easier or quicker for the user.

Eye-Tracking Software:
Eye-tracking software was previously inaccessible due to a cost point of view but is now readily available to most people through apps on iPads and Windows. They use cameras to track movement in the corneas to select symbols and words to communicate with others.

What does research say about alternative and augmentative communication for autistic population?
While there are numerous research studies evaluating the use of these communication systems (see a literature review), it is important to keep in mind that “one size fits one” and individualised approach is of crucial importance. For all questions, feel free to contact me.

Week 20 - SEND Remote Education Toolkit+

This week’s newsletter is an opportunity to share the recent research outputs published on our website. Our Headteacher, Mrs Hildrey is leading a global project to better understand the possibilities for remote teaching, delivered to autistic students.

Our aim is to collect examples and ideas from practitioners in order to pilot effective strategies with other special schools and produce evidence-based guidance for everyone. In the last month, we have collected and analysed experiences of 100 teachers from 13 countries around the globe. The report from that international survey and the practical suggestions are now published in a form of a toolkit.

Representing different communities, challenges and educational systems, teachers from around the world have shared their experience of remote teaching. From setting up remote education provision to ensuring consistent high-quality support for every student – this toolkit offers a variety of practical solutions for both teachers and families to use. Common mistakes and less-known solutions are analysed and presented along with direct quotations from those on the front line of remote teaching.

The SEND Remote Education Toolkit (version 1), which was created based on global remote education experiences is now available on our website:
http://www.abbotsleaschool.co.uk/send-remote-education-project/
* Keep in mind that this toolkit will be updated regularly. For that reason, we strongly suggest working with the online version, rather than downloading and sharing what might be one of the older versions of the document.

Feel free to share this resource with your networks and for any additional questions or suggestions contact me or Mrs Hildrey.

Week 21 - Safe Internet+

Dear families, partners and friends of Abbot’s Lea School

Following our school activities in marking the Safer Internet Day 2021, I have reviewed the recent advances in research communities for ensuring safer internet for all. Out of many valuable initiatives, I have created this list of research projects to share with you:

 

Do these projects inspire you to start your own actions or campaigns? Come and chat with me about the possibilities of leading your projects in our school and in the wider community.

Week 22 - Outdoor Education+

Dear colleagues, families and friends of Abbot’s Lea School

 

I am sure you have seen our new outdoor learning area. It has been designed to support exploration, learning and play, while enjoying the benefits of being outdoors. These activities are shown to be beneficial in numerous studies conducted around the world.

Learning outdoors is healthy 1 2 3 4

Learning outdoors is active and increases students’ physical, mental and social health.  Some studies have even shown follow-up (e.g., non-school) physical activity increases with outdoor learning. Access to nature has also been shown to decrease the symptoms of ADHD. Outdoor learning and access to nature also decrease stress levels of students and teachers.

Learning outdoors supports child development 1 2 3

Children greatly benefit developmentally from being outdoors. Outdoor education and play support emotional, behavioural and intellectual development. Studies have shown that students who learn outdoors develop: a sense of self, independence, confidence, creativity, decision-making and problem-solving skills, empathy towards others, motor skills, self-discipline and initiative.

School performance increases when children learn outdoors 1 2 3
A number of studies have documented increased school performance through outdoor education. Research has document increased standardized test scores, enhanced attitude about school, improved in-school behaviour, improved attendance and overall enhanced student achievement when students learn in and about nature.  In addition, outdoor education effectively employs a greater range of children’s intelligences. Many researchers contribute the increase in performance to increased relevance and hands-on experience of learning outdoors.

Instead of a conclusion, I would like to encourage our students to never stop playing.
Indoors or outdoors, “play is the highest form of research” (Albert Einstein).

Week 23 - Reading and hyperlexia+

Did you know that 95.9% of children who have heard of World Book Day and children who participate in World Book Day activities are more engaged in reading and books than those who don’t? To celebrate this day, I have engaged myself in reading research about reading.

Research on reading has shown that children acquire decoding and reading comprehension skills at the same time, but that each skill develops independently of the other. Autistic students typically perform at average or above average levels when it comes to decoding written language. However, they are generally better at sounding out and identifying words than understanding what they have read. This may be because comprehension is a more abstract skill than decoding. It relies on a reader’s sensitivity to story structure, ability to pick up on referents, make inferences and use prior knowledge of the subject to makes sense of the text. Attention and working memory are also implicated, as metacognitive monitoring strategies ensure the reader is following along.

Have you heard of hyperlexia? Some autistic students are able to read and process text at a very fast pace. Studies have shown that 6-20% of autistic children exhibit hyperlexia, but the prevalence could be even higher. Researchers have used brain scans to show that this is due to simultaneous activity in the left and right hemispheres of the brain, allowing for phonological and visual processing to be engaged at the same time. Nonetheless, these students are not always able to access semantic meaning in the same way.

Parents and teachers can learn much from the valid evidence based research and the science of proficient reading. Thanks to interdisciplinary research with neuroscientists we have revealed the neural ‘map’ to proficient reading – it is in the development of phonologic processing pathways. By following the ‘map’ to proficient reading and by using direct systematic phonologic based programs we can help our children and students achieve reading success.

Week 24 - Neurodiversity Celebration Week+

Dear colleagues, families and friends of Abbot’s Lea School

Ahead of our Neurodiversity Celebration Week, I wanted to share questions for all of us to reflect on the current practice and the future of inclusive education, work and community.
All students’ brains learn differently. Neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) affect increasingly large numbers of students across the world. There are a number of different ways in which our education systems, workplaces and communities can help all individuals thrive at school and beyond.

Questions for future thinking:

  • Greater awareness will likely result in a continuing increase in diagnosed individuals. What strategies will allow us to better prepare schools and teachers to meet their needs?
  • How can assessment methods at school better reflect the strengths of neurodiverse students? What would more personalised academic assessments that account for neurodiversity look like?
  • In the coming decades, increased digitalisation and automation will reshape the demand for skills in the labour market. How can we make sure that the education of neurodiverse students will meet both their individual needs and the future needs of the workplace?
Week 25 - Project Opportunities+

Dear colleagues, families and friends of Abbot’s Lea School 

Following your great interest and feedback about the free music tuition offered as part of the Awards for Young Musicians projects, I am delighted to share with you two additional projects with available support, therapy, creative activities and resources. 

Soundabout Life Project – music therapy sessions available for students aged 16-25 

Soundabout Life is an England-wide, fully funded music project for young adults with complex needs and their family members/carersThe project aims to support young adults aged 16-25 with severe and profound and multiple learning difficulties, and their family members/carers, during the transition to early adulthood. Parents or carers can sign you up for music sessions with a specially trained Soundabout music practitioners or help you access free music resources at www.soundaboutfamily.org.uk
To sign up or get more information, please contact their team at info@soundabout.org.uk or call 01235797474. 

Children Heard and Seen – support for children impacted by parental imprisonment
This organisation supports children, young people and families who are impacted by parental imprisonment through individual support, availability of volunteer mentors, drawing and talking therapy sessions at school, music projects and holiday activities. 

If you think you would benefit from such support, please email the organisation directly at info@childrenheardandseen.co.uk or call 07557339258  

This week I have learnt about our students’ great interest for art and music and decided to find more creative opportunities. Make sure you pay close attention to our news because there is an art competition which will be launched very soon. 

Thank you for your fantastic efforts during our Neurodiversity Celebration Week. I am truly impressed with your creativity and inspiring messages 

Week 26 - Comic Books+

Dear colleagues, families and friends of Abbot’s Lea School

In our school, we put a lot of effort into developing reading, both for academic progress and for pleasure. Last month, as part of our student survey, we asked what motivates our students to read and which types of texts do they prefer to read. The responses were very interesting and I would like to share one segment of the findings with you.

Majority of our students enjoy reading, but some are specific in what they like to read. While social media, blogs and fictional texts are a popular choice, a big group of students chooses comic books and graphic novels. Research offers a clear explanation for that choice:

  • The cartoon face expressions are naturally exaggerated. This makes their emotions much easier for an autistic reader to understand and engage with.
  • Panels in comic books structure the action in a clear way that makes the story line easy to follow.
  • For those readers who have different sensory processing experiences, descriptions of story settings are often not enough. Comic books often include rich illustrations and visually highlighted sound effects.
  • By including humour in materials used for reading, students can have positive experiences and relax easily.

My suggestion is to read as much as you can, in whichever format you like. Make these holidays fun and magical – read about new characters, worlds and adventures. Find your favourite comic book or a text novel and let us know what would you like to see in our school library.

Week 27 - Family and Class Pages+

Dear colleagues, families and friends of Abbot’s Lea School

Over the half term period, we have reviewed and redesigned our school webpage.

While some tabs are still in development, you can now access new and improved Key Stage and Class Pages. Those spaces will be updated every Friday with weekly news and students’ contributions.

I would like to invite all of our students to take ownership of their class pages and share their progress on monthly projects, creative productions or future planning. Our class teams are available to offer direct support with creation of the content, while our IT and R&D department can support with technical aspects of it.

With recognition of the necessity of creating a flexible educational offer, we are developing a digital Resource Centre as well as Learning from Home guidance for all. Those will be available for students who are absent to ensure appropriate access to educational content and minimise learning loss.

For our families and carers, we have extended our existent information page with available training and events, as well as additional information about wellbeing and online safety. We encourage you to engage with available free online training and webinar events, and request any additional topics you would like to see covered.

Your feedback and suggestions about the new webpage organisation are much appreciated, you can submit them via email feedback@abbotsleaschool.co.uk or directly to me (contact information below).

Week 28 - Research Café +

Dear colleagues, families and friends of Abbot’s Lea School

Research is not boring or difficult and I am on a mission to prove that to you.

On 12 May at 1 pm, I am organising an Online Research café, which is an opportunity for students, families, staff and communities to come together and talk about research. This event is aiming to create a friendly environment for all questions and give everyone a chance to meet people behind research projects.

The focus of this event is on the voice of the autistic community, how researchers can use participatory methods to create a welcoming and respectful environment for people to share their opinions and have control over their representation in publication. I have invited two researchers whose projects have been accepted by our school due to open and inclusive ways of including participants in all stages of research. The speakers at this event are:

Anita Balcer-Whittle (University of Leeds) who is exploring how we can make research and testing more exciting and enjoyable for autistic teens, given our current climate of online learning, research, and meetings.

Michelle Dunne (Edge Hill University), who is engaging young autistic people in exploring their experiences and priorities for post-16 education.

We do not need degrees to do great research, but we do need great ideas. Join our research café and help us solve the first mystery: What does Abbot’s Lea community wants to research?

If you are not part of our staff team, register for the event to receive the access link: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/ResearchCafe/
The session will be recorded and shared with registered participants who are unable to attend.

Week 29 - Autism and Music+

Dear colleagues, families and friends of Abbot’s Lea School

The week is all about creativity. We are completing our Liverpool Heartbeat Art Competition and we welcomed Mr David Kelly from Awards for Young Musicians. During his visit, he met with several students who told him what music means for them. I was surprised to hear so many powerful and inspiring messages from our students. It made me want to know more about the connection between autism and music. Here is what I found:

Music has been identified as a strength in people with Autism. Many studies reported positive effects of music on emotional engagement, social interaction, communication and parent–child relationships (for example, 1 and 2), suggesting that musical activities in a therapeutic context can promote measurable positive changes in children with ASD.

This study, published in 2018, provides the first evidence that 8–12 weeks of individual music intervention can indeed improve social communication and functional brain connectivity for young autistic population.

Our school, in collaboration with Awards for Young Musicians, will provide 7-10 weeks of music tuition for a group of students, together with funding for instruments and group activities to promote social interaction and talent development.

I am very proud of our students, their incredible passion and creativity. I am sure their music talents will be celebrated in the future as well. We are ready for their adult music careers.
The Autistic Musicians Protection Society (AMPS) is a representational organisation that offers free support, assistance, awareness and representation for all musicians, family, professional industry and others who encounter autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as part of their daily lives.

The stage is yours!

Week 30 - International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) Virtual Conference+

Dear colleagues, families and friends of Abbot’s Lea School

The week my research networks were filled with great findings and discussions from the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) Virtual Conference. This annual event brings together researchers from around the globe to share, discuss and collaborate on the topics that are relevant to the autism community.

While INSAR members have full access to all projects presented, some researchers value the openness of science and share their work on social media and on the web. I have made a selection of posters, papers and presentations of newest autism research that you can access, read and discuss:

A lot of these findings open up more questions than answer them, but only but challenging our current knowledge can we improve.

My doors are always open if you would like to talk about these (or any other) findings. I enjoy learning, both from papers and from people. I might be an expert in autism research, but I will never be an expert in autism. That’s where our ALS community comes in to help. Thank you for teaching me, challenging me and helping me find solutions.

Week 31 - Team Teach+

Dear colleagues, families and friends of Abbot’s Lea School

I am away from school this week, but for a very good reason – I am attending a 5-day Team Teach Trainer course. I will return to school next week as a qualified intermediate Team Teach trainer to help our staff and families in positive behaviour support practice.

Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) is an evidence-based approach with a primary goal of improving a person’s quality of life and a secondary goal of decreasing the frequency and severity of their challenging behaviours.

Children and young people in our school who sometimes engage in challenging behaviours are actually telling us something is wrong or missing—and they need support to make it better. The challenge is for us to build support for our students and all the people who work and care for them.

I would like to use this opportunity to invite everyone to:

I am looking forward to joining our fantastic team of trainers in sharing the theory and practice of positive behaviour support.

 

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