A secondary school asked me to support a student (Anne*) who had not been able to attend school for six months due to severe anxiety. She had recently been diagnosed with autism. Her mother reported that “She was a stereotypical, textbook case of a girl with Aspergers She couldn’t process the imitation technique fast enough in her move to Secondary School resulting in panic attacks, eventually becoming so severe and frequent that she could not attend school at all.”
Aspire, the Home Tuition Service, was already working with her at home, and had gained her trust, but Anne wasn’t able to access any work which involved writing and continued to be highly anxious with any thought process related to school.
I met Anne at home, however after the first couple of sessions realised that I needed to work with her anxieties in the environment which she found so challenging, so proposed that both the teacher from Aspire and myself should work with her in school.
Anne’s mother felt this was an unusual step to take. “Anne was very resistant to the help at first. Jo quickly worked out that a completely different technique was needed. This is where Jo stands out to ‘other help’ ….. there is no format that will work everytime with every child by following a certain criteria. Jo adapts her strategies. For us, after just two sessions, that meant surprisingly moving her from the home environment and into school.
Anne was very anxious at first, but, together with the excellent professional support of the Aspire team, she soon settled into the routine of working at school for short periods, The teachers from Aspire described the joint approach. “The cohesive way that we have been able to work, has resulted in the student gaining trust in the process, and enabling her to take successful steps forward. The AuTC creative approach enables the student to feel supported while still in control of the situation, using pre discussed techniques that empower and build student’s confidence. It has and continues to be a pleasure working with Anne and we look forward to a successful outcome.
This integration process continues but Anne has already built her confidence and resilience and is looking forward to being fully included back into her class.
Anne’s mother is also finding benefit from having a supportive team around her daughter. “Jo has also been invaluable helping us as a family too. Having a professional ASD expert to help be a voice is incredibly reassuring, both in school, and in very misunderstood family and social areas. Jo doesn’t paint a picture of this being easy, but she does provide certainty in moving forward. Jo’s knowledge and expertise in understanding autism and the person, autism and the School, and autism and the family has been invaluable. I wouldn’t like to say where we would be now without Jo’s support”.
* We’ve changed the name for confidentiality