World Autism Awareness Week: I Find Teaching Jobs in SEND, and Autism In Particular, So Hugely Rewarding

Although working in a mainstream environment has many benefits, having worked in both mainstream and SEND settings I find with teaching jobs in SEND I’m able to bring my own personality and pedagogy to working with students with special needs.

Teaching Students With Autism Can Make You Feel Special

Working in SEND Feels Special

This can be for a variety of reasons including

  • smaller classes
  • more support staff to assist with any particular special needs that require further assistance (allowing the teacher to differentiate appropriately without just using a worksheet!),
  • an academic and vocationally balanced curriculum
  • truly maintaining a Special Education by being a Special Educator
  • and above all, working with young people who I find hugely interesting human beings who WANT you, as an educator and supportive educator, to bring their education alive

We all know that students are students, kids are kids and adults are adults, regardless of who we are or how we’re perceived so in some ways, working with a student with autism is no different to working with a mainstream pupil. Having said that a benefit of working with pupils on the spectrum is that because classes can be smaller, you’re able to get to know your students more; their hobbies, interests, future aspirations, what they did yesterday, what they’re doing tomorrow, what they’re doing next year! You simply have more time to spend with them and everyone benefits from that.

I’ve also done the opposite in mainstream settings where I’ve worked with full classes of 30 students, about 4-6 of them a day (I’d see roughly 500 different students a week) so I felt it very hard (near on impossible) to build a bond with them. However, my experience in specialist settings is that I truly felt I could make real impact on my students, their lives and experience their progression with them, which of course, is why I became a teacher in the first place.

I have an anecdote I’d like to share with you that for me best communicates the fantastic experiences I’ve had working with students on the autism spectrum…

… my class had a task which was to describe what they understood was being said/written from a short piece of writing which they’d chosen. Most students were engaged except a student I’ll refer to as ‘Mark’, a very intelligent young man who needed differentiation daily, in teaching style, rather than simplifying work. At this point I will add that Mark, like me, has a passion for music, a fantastic memory, and laboured many hours revising bus routes, train times, listening to music and reading the dictionary. So rather than telling him my next tactical teaching move, I popped on a bit of music in the back ground, Laura Branigan’s Self Control (1984). Without saying anything, Mark started to tap his feet to the beat and with a great big smile he started to sing the lyrics, word by word, (softly under his breath, as Mark doesn’t like to cause a scene or attract attention). For a 14 year old this was impressive to say the least, especially as Mark was born in the year 2000! I paused the music and asked him what he felt each sentence meant. (Here is me thinking Eureka, he’s doing English work by breaking down the song!) And that was when he blew me away

“having self-control is like having no control, control doesn’t exist in me. Why do you want to control yourself? I’m happy being free”.

I’m happy and proud to say that this is my most important and memorable professional memory, from time with a student with Autism. To be fair it’s my most memorable memory with ANY student.

Special Activity

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

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 SEND work by 30 April ’16 quoting WAAWPT in the text box at the bottom of the webpage.

For World Autism Awareness Week we have created a free teaching resource as well as commissioned and written a series of blogs about working with students with Autism you might find interesting.

Do you work with students with autism?  Have you had a special experience in your SEND teaching you’d like to share with the Prospero Community during World Autism Awareness Week? We’d love to hear from you…….