Autistic Spectrum Disorders in the Secondary School – Lynn Plimley and Maggie Bowen
This is an introduction to Autistic Spectrum Disorders for professionals working within secondary schools. Coming in at 97 pages it is far from a comprehensive text, but does manage to cover a wide range of topics including transitions, social strategies, sensory differences, sexuality, and work experience.
For a number of years those designing new, or adapting old, environments for children and adults with ASD have pondered over decisions concerning paint colours, types of lighting, types of heating, use of natural light, and construction of basic resources/facilities. There is very little written about the topic. In order to design for people with ASD, there is a number of principles that could apply (Plimley, 2004). The primary one is to consult the people for whom it is intended.
Inclusion is, in general, more successful in primary schools than in secondary schools. Leading on from this, autistic students are more likely to experience difficulties once they transition into secondary school. Some of this is because secondary schools are often much bigger than primary schools, along with the need to organise oneself and located multiple classrooms with different teachers for different subjects. If a secondary school has autistic students (and many will) then it is imperative that all the teachers have at least a basic understanding of what autism is and how it may affect their students.
IEPs for pupils with ASD will inevitably target social communication, social interaction, flexibility of thought and developing independence. It could be argued therefore that the IEP is an effective instrument of inclusive practice. However, this will only be the case if it is set in the context of whole-school life and is not seen as something that is ‘done’ to the child away from the mainstream.
As I said this book is not in-depth, but in this case that’s okay because the reality is that many teachers do not have the time to sit and pour over long books which detail all the aspects of autism. Teachers are under tremendous pressure and are not going to be looking to add to their work load. A book this size, read by all the staff in the school, would be a good place to start. If they were to combine this book with another such as ‘100 ideas for supporting pupils on the autistic spectrum’ then they would be equipped to at least begin to understand and adapt their teaching methods for an autistic student.
The reader is, at times, left wishing that the book just went a bit more into detail about things like adapting the curriculum or planning or IEPS, but considering the point of this book is to serve as a basic introductory text – it serves it’s purpose. There are some brief sections which related to specific events such as how to help a student learn to deal with a fire alarm and how to set up observational recording for assessments, but for most topics the reader would need to research further to get a better understanding.
Is it worth reading?
If you are an education professional who is about to begin working with an autistic student in secondary school then reading through this will give you a starting point. Just don’t expect it to contain all the answers.