There are so many pressures on you to meet data targets, pass ofsted reports and show student progression. There’s so much you have to do in one day; take a register, answer emails, reports, data entries, oh yeah and teach. My reason of writing to you was not to remind you how much you need to do. I began the letter in this way because I want you to know I understand how much there is to do. My intention is not to make you feel bad. I mean no offence or to order you about. However, there’s something I want you to consider as you start this academic year, when you look at your registers and see the students you have and begin to look through their data and then you see their needs. One student might have the initials SEN and as you delve deeper another acronym comes up CIN-ASD. A label that you know but may find difficult to fully understand. The autism label. This student is no longer just a student but they are an autistic student who present as Unknown. There’s pressure for you to know everything about autism as the condition is becoming more increasingly common. But please don’t judge this student and don’t let the label scare you. Treat them like every other student.
They are labelled autistic so that you know and can take their condition into consideration but not to scare you into worrying that you can make everything perfect for them. You can’t make anything perfect for any student. Have high expectations of them, so many of them can learn and achieve so much but only if they are pushed to do so. Low expectations are damaging they hurt those autistic students (any student for that matter). Correct them when they do wrong, praise them when they do even the littlest thing right and talk to them not about them.
Underneath that label is another human being just like you. They are not only their autism. They are so much more. They are the creators, the engineers, the educators and so much more of this world. They will grow up to be adults just like all those other students.
I speak from experience an autistic adult who was once and autistic child that is now working and living life. I had different teachers who had low and high expectations and I understand the effects of both. Fortunately I listened to those who had high but not everyone will. So please teachers don’t see the autism label and worry about how you will teach that child. As long as you have an open understanding and don’t tread with fear that child will learn. Though they may not learn exactly what you want, as is the risk with most students, a positive impact and the smallest of successes cannot be measured by statistics. At the end of the day knowing how to be a human being is more important than being Einstein.
An autistic adult