I met Robert* when he was in Year Three in a village primary school. He was described as a friendly and engaging boy, although our first meeting consisted of him answering my gentle questions with one word answers with his back turned towards me!
We soon developed a positive relationship and each time I met him he turned more towards me and started answering more open questions.
In Year Four his self esteem dropped. He began to get cross with himself, saying things like “I am an output. I’m weird and rubbish”. Other children in his class were starting to pick up on the fact that he learnt differently in some areas. We spoke to him and we both decided together that he was an ’input’ i.e. someone who is very special and talented, and talked of his ‘special brain’.
After conversations with his mother and staff at school we decided that now was the time to tell him of his diagnosis. We all talked together about the best way to do this, and how to ensure everyone was kept informed of how he was feeling throughout the process so we could ensure we were all supporting him in a consistent way.
His parents talked to him about autism during the Christmas holidays and, before the start of the spring term, he felt confident enough to tell some close friends what he had learnt. They were very interested and supportive and said things like “Oh, that is why you don’t like the big noise at the beginning of films at the cinema – I understand now”.
Robert seemed much happier both at home and at school in the spring term, but expressed concerns that he was the only child ‘with an Aspie brain’ at his school. We decided to introduce him to others with the same condition and he joined a couple of social groups I was running, along with his Mum, LSA and cuddly toy, which he very much enjoyed. He scored it “a 9.5 out of 10!”
I kept in touch with Robert throughout Years 5 and 6 and put together a transition plan for his move to secondary school. This included working together with staff at the two schools and parents, incorporating individualised resources and strategies so that everything was planned and in place for September. The Specialist Teacher worked closely with the Speech and Language Therapist linked to the new school and led a training session for his new staff, to discuss any issues and suggest solutions. Robert was also encouraged to join the regular social group which supported him to make positive relationships with other pupils.
Despite ongoing concerns about the loudness of the school bell, Robert has ended Year Seven with a couple of firm friends, making excellent academic progress and fully involved in the life of the school.
* We’ve changed the name for confidentiality