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Ceredigion Learning Services’ focus on learners with Autism

Monday 26 March marked the start of World Autism Awareness Week 2018. To coincide with this, Ceredigion Special Educational Needs/Additional Learning Needs (SEN/ALN) team arranged for renowned speaker and journalist, Dean Beadle, to give a presentation to an audience of school staff, learning services staff and partnership agencies on Monday, 26 March.

Dean shared his humorous and insightful personal experiences of learning and living with autism in order to further raise awareness of autism and its educational implications.

Dean’s presentation forms part of a wider professional development programme of further extending awareness and understanding regarding meeting the needs of pupils with autism within Ceredigion schools. This includes providing a specific training course which enables a member of support staff to undertake the role of ‘Autism Champion’ within their school as well as supporting schools to work through the national ‘Learning with Autism’ project.

Additional grant money has been allocated by the Welsh Government via their Additional Learning Needs (ALN) Innovation Project. This forms part of the Welsh Government’s ALN Reform agenda which will replace the current SEN Bill and Code of Practice from September 2020 onwards. Ceredigion County Council’s role was to develop more innovative ways of providing outreach services in order to further raise schools’ capacity to meet the needs of pupils with ALN. Ceredigion’s SEN/ALN team chose to focus on further increasing schools capacity to meet the needs of pupils with autism more effectively as this specific group of vulnerable learners continues to be a focus in Ceredigion as well as nationally. A team of specialist staff was supported and one of the project elements was to develop and trial an Autism Champion training package.

The training course was developed and delivered by representatives from a range of specialist services, including Educational Psychology, Speech and language therapy, Occupational therapy as well as SEN/ALN advisory teachers and specialist teachers from specialist resource centres within Ceredigion. The training has now been delivered to a number of teaching assistants from Ceredigion schools which included all seven secondary schools and 31 primary schools.

The aim of the Autism Champions is to further increase schools capacity in supporting pupils with autism and provide advice to teachers as well as playing a key role in supporting their schools to work through the ‘Learning with Autism’ programme and achieve the National award for Autism Aware Schools developed by ASDinfo Wales, the national website for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

Nine Ceredigion schools took part in an initial pilot to use the Learning with Autism resources in order to raise awareness of ASD/Autism across all members of their school community. Some of these schools have now successfully attained the National Award with others close to submitting. With the additional resource of the Autism Champions, Ceredigion’s SEN/ALN team are encouraging these schools to work towards this award by the end of July 2018. Dean Beadle’s presentation is part of this focus on further extending Ceredigion’s schools and learning services staff’s awareness of autism.

Councillor Catrin Miles, Cabinet member for responsibility for Learning Services said, “The ‘Learning with Autism’ programme is a great step towards raising further understanding and awareness of Autism and to ensure that Ceredigion schools are fully equipped with meeting the needs of pupils with autism more effectively. The Council is committed to supporting and providing an inclusive education for all children living in Ceredigon.”

For more information contact the Special Educational Needs Department on 01970633710 or email [email protected]