World Autism Awareness Week: Attention Autism at Kestrel House

Prior to The National Autistic Society’s World Autism Awareness Week of 2-8 April Prospero Teaching visited Kestrel House  a small, independent, special school for pupils with Autism, additional learning difficulties and complex needs.

During our visit we met Chelsea Hutchinson-McKay, the school’s SALT who kindly offered to write this piece to help build awareness of autism during WAAW…

“Here at Kestrel House, an independent special school in Crouch End, North London, for pupils between the ages of 4 and 16 with Autism, we are practitioners who incorporate the ‘Attention Autism’ programme. It has four stages, was developed by Autism expert and Speech and Language Therapist Gina Davies, and is multi sensory and highly engaging.

So what are the four stages?

Attention Autism Stage 1

Focus – The Bucket

The objective in Stage 1 is to develop pupils’ ability to focus their joint attention for longer periods of time. This is done by quickly pulling out a series of items for a short period of time, such as engaging toys that appeal to their strengths ie visual learners, memory skills. I am encouraging staff to use this technique to teach across the curriculum eg pull out numbers for numeracy and letters for literacy.

Transition from focus to building joint attention

Sustain – The Attention Builder

The idea at this stage is to build on focus to increase pupil attention, so we demonstrate a multi sensory activity pupils will find fantastic to watch and that lasts a little longer than the bucket. One popular with students involved filling a number of small transparent cups with water, add  paint, food colouring or glitter and then flick them over. We repeat the activity a number of times when possible, taking slightly longer each time building attention and language as we go. And then it’s time to further develop by moving to stage 3… (our students have not reached stage 3 yet but it is the aim)

Enabling Those on the ASD to Shift Attention

Shift – The Interactive Game

Here we’re getting our pupils to shift their attention on to themselves and their own participation in a group activity without the need for social interaction. We achieve this by getting them to take their turn ie follow a routine, they participate and then return their attention back to the group. And then it’s time to move to stage 4…

Develop group participation skills for those on the ASD

All of the Above Stages – Followed By Transition

So at this stage we demonstrate an activity to the children which they watch as a group. Individually they then collect the equipment they’ll need to do the activity, take it to a group table where they’ll complete the activity with others alongside them. When they’ve completed the activity we’ll all join together and celebrate the completion of the activity. But it’s the process of putting all the above elements together that’s important here, not the completed item.  

By Chelsea Hutchinson-McKay

Speech and Language Therapist, Kestrel House

You can find out more about Gina Davies and her work on her website.

Are you currently working in mainstream education and finding it sufficiently rewarding?

During World Autism Awareness Week we have commissioned and written a series of blogs about working with students with Autism you might find interesting.

Have you ever considered working with students on the ASD? Did you know you don’t need any specific qualifications? What you need is to be super creative and flexible in the classroom. But having Stage 1 TEAM TEACH can help make you more attractive to employers. So Prospero Teaching is offering the opportunity to win one of 12 free places to teachers or support staff who register with us for SEN work by 30 April ’16 quoting WAAWPT in the text box at the bottom of the webpage.

Did you know Prospero Teaching has a specialist SEN team and that some of our staff have taught and supported students with autism?  Do you know that we have jobs in mainstream and SEN settings teaching students on the ASD all over England and Wales?

Have you used Attention Autism and if so how was the experience for you, and crucially your learners? Are there any other programmes or approaches to building attention for students with autism that you would recommend to others in SEN roles?