Concerned about emotional well-being, anxiety and mental health in learners with autism in special schools
As a teacher in a class specifically for teenagers with autistic spectrum conditions (ASC) in a special school I see first-hand the difficulties faced by young people with profound learning difficulties. Since becoming a teacher I have become deeply concerned by the increasing incidence of impact of mental health issues on young people. In particular those with ASC who are affected disproportionately by high rates of anxiety, stress and mental health problems. This affects their behaviour, learning success, mental health and happiness at a time when they should be getting ready to enter the next phase of life (Carpenter, 2013).
This blog exists to help education professionals in special schools (and anyone else who is interested), to better understand the issues around stress, anxiety, well-being and mental health in people with ASC and profound learning difficulties and to respond appropriately.
The aim of this blog
In supporting learners with profound autistic spectrum conditions (ASCs) to learn and achieve, it is crucial for special schools to gain skills and understanding to help learners to overcome negative issues around stress, anxiety, well-being and mental health.
The autism charity, Autistica, appalled by the high rate of suicide within the ASC community, recommends that all who support people with autism should seek an understanding of depression and anxiety in autism. Schools are an important provider of care; supporting learners for extensive periods, so are in the front line in the battle for positive mental well-being.
However, although the staff members are willing, we are struggling to find helpful information and resources with which to support the very specific needs of our learners who have severe ASC and profound learning disability.
The aim of this blog is to support curriculum development in those schools that specialize in teaching learners with profound ASC to improve the well-being and resilience of learners and thus reduce the incidence of mental ill-health.
The blog aims to provide:
- succinct background information tailored for use by schools as they research the issue of poor well-being and mental health difficulties of learners with profound autism,
- Consider how to implement the recommendations on well-being including those from the DfE as laid out in their report, Mental health and behaviour in schools.
- Suggestions for interventions, activities, approaches and strategies to facilitate implementation of research based thinking around supporting learners in special schools to build positive well-being.
Warmly felt thanks
I would like to offer a very well-deserved thank you or 3. Special thanks go to the Farmington Institute, Harris-Manchester College, University of Oxford, for funding the initial time I needed to start my research and get thinking. Dr Karen Walshe, for her expertise in guiding me through the research process and wisdom in suggesting how to best construct my thoughts and plan, without her there would be no blog. Thanks to the leadership of my school for allowing me to leave my class for 6 weeks to complete the initial research which I hope will be of great use in our school, academy trust and beyond. I am grateful to Mandy and our wonderful TAs, David, Liz, Carla and Hannah for so expertly taking the helm in class. And thank you to the families of the learners in my class who willingly accepted the changes to our class structure whilst I was away.
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