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Autism, gender and gender dysphoria in issue 19 of The SEND Practitioner

Edward Farrow

This issue explores the comparatively undiscovered country of females with autism via in-depth interviews with Professor Baron-Cohen and Dr Hendrickx. It also examines gender dysphoria through Dr Lawson’s deeply personal and moving account.

‘Autism is more diverse than originally thought, with new ideas being put forward every day. In fact, it’s a case of ‘the more we know, the less we know’, particularly in how gender affects individuals with autism.’

Dr Judith Gould

Judith Gould’s quote hints at the gender disparities in our understanding of autism; disparities that mean that ‘we don’t have such a detailed idea of what it looks like in females’ (Professor Baron-Cohen). While we’ve made strides since Hans Asperger first asserted that autism did not affect females (in 1943), we’re still a country mile from a true grasp of autism across genders. Indeed, when neurodiversity and the autism spectrum are such key terms of reference in our modern discourse, it is telling that our understanding of autism across genders is not as diverse, broad and consistent as it could be.

This issue of The SEND Practitioner addresses this deficit by asking two very different experts your questions about females with autism. In this way, Professor Simon Baron-Cohen and Dr Sarah Hendrickx offer contrasting perspectives. While the former is a world-class academic, researcher, and author of ‘The extreme male brain theory of autism’; the latter is a respected consultant, trainer and coach in autism spectrum conditions who was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in her late 40s. You’ll also find a profoundly important and personal piece on gender and gender dysphoria by Dr Wenn Lawson.

To conclude this issue, Maddie Ralph’s top-notch interviews with Ruth Deutsch (co-creator of CAP) and two CAP graduates, demonstrate the impact that this course has had on dynamic assessment skills. While our news section gives you the lowdown on Dyslexia Action, our recent NASENCO webinar, the London CAP course and Autism Show (this June), and our head of marketing’s marathon exploits.

Read issue 19 of The SEND Practitioner.

Peruse The SEND Practitioner archive.

We’re at London’s Autism Show (16-17 June), ExCeL London

We’re at stand B9 of London’s Autism Show at the end of this week (16–17 June).

This Friday, Dr Sue Sheppard speaks about challenges and opportunities in supporting the needs of students in schools: current issues and research.

Our very own Sue can be found at The Hub: Theatre 2 on Friday 16 June 2017 (12.50–13.10).

In the words of Dr Lorna Wing, Lead Consultant at the Lorna Wing Centre for Autism:

‘Sue combines her extensive psychological knowledge with considerable problem-solving skills to devise unique, creative paths for each individual. Her flexible and pragmatic approach is at the heart of her practice and ensures achievable outcomes in each context.’

Find out more about the Autism Show.

Find out more about Sue.

A Q&A with Lee Royston, our new instructional designer

 

This month we are delighted to share an interview with the newest member of the Real Group team: Lee Royston. Lee is our new instructional designer, she is based in our Greenwich office and will be working across the company to update, improve, and write our online courses. Lee told us about what led her to become an instructional designer and about the responsibilities of the role.

What were you doing in your previous role, before joining Real Group? What did it entail and how long did you work there?

‘I previously worked for a charity named Red Balloon Learner Centre Group as the director of distance learning. They have four centres around the country and mainly work with children in secondary education who aren’t attending school; the best description of that issue would probably be ‘anxious school refusal’. In a nutshell, the key purpose of my role was to set up and develop an online school for the charity, which really took up the last six years of my life. I covered the project management side of things and managed the staff, but I also developed the teacher training programme for the Red Balloon teachers so that they could better cater for the students.

‘I initially joined Red Balloon as an English and PSA teacher, around seven years ago, and convinced the head of the centre to allow me to continue teaching my students from my home in South Africa while I arranged my visa. So, I taught them from a distance and it turned out that they preferred me at a distance! It was partly the novelty of me being in South Africa of course – they asked me questions about games that I could get over there, and the monkeys in the garden – it resulted in the students really engaging with the project. This is when I realised that technology and education as a combination open up such a lot of opportunities and that was really where my passion lay. This experience, some great funding, and a really supportive senior leadership, enabled us to develop the online school.’

What is your background in terms of work and education?

‘I completed a psychology degree, and then a teaching degree after that. Following this, I moved to Taiwan and taught there for a while, eventually realising that I felt more passionately about teaching psychology as it overlaps with education so heavily. I found it more accessible from a teaching point of view, and then I decided to do an MPhil in technology and education, which I completed last year.’

What particularly attracted you to the role within Real Group?

‘I have a background in psychology and information technology, and when I read the job description I just thought: this is the perfect fit! I had worked for a not-for-profit organisation for a very long time, and I was interested in the role with Real Group. Other jobs that I looked at simply didn’t inspire me, but working with education and technology is something that I am very passionate about. I was ready for a commute to Canterbury every day, and then I found out there was an office in Greenwich – it just ticked every box!

What does being an instructional designer involve?

‘It’s quite a broad role. I’ll be liaising with subject experts (formal academic experts), utilising the in-house expertise, working in a team to design the courses and create content, and driving others to create as well. I won’t be doing the technical side of things (coding, for example) but I will be using the principles of online learning and education theory to ensure that our courses continue to be educationally sound and engaging, and that delegates can navigate their way through a course from start to finish, for a pleasant yet challenging experience.’

Is there anything you are particularly enjoying so far at Real Group?

‘My colleagues, they’re lovely! And if I’m honest, working in Greenwich is really great – you can get a coffee and walk along the river, which is nice.’

What are your interests outside of work – what sort of thing do you like doing in your spare time?

‘We do lots of travelling when we can, and walking the dog takes up a lot of our time – we have a Jack Russell crossed with a Dachshund whose name is Frank.’

Issue 19 of The SEND Practitioner published Sunday 21 May

Issue 19 of The SEND Practitioner published on Sunday and features in-depth interviews with Professor Simon Baron-Cohen and Dr Sarah Hendrickx about autism and its diagnosis.

In this month’s issue, Professor Simon Baron-Cohen discusses how the social pressure on girls to fit in and conform can mask their autism, making it difficult for teachers and practitioners to identify. Dr Sarah Hendrickx also explores the issue of autistic girls ‘hiding in plain sight’, and what she feels are the advantages and disadvantages of the expansion of specialist support for girls. Dr Wenn Lawson draws on his own experience of gender dysphoria and autism, discusses the links between the two conditions and the ways in which he overcame barriers.

Issue 19 also includes an interview with Ruth Deutsch (educational and child psychologist, and co-author of CAP) about the foundations and history of CAP, and how the course has developed since its inception. We also speak to two CAP users, Dr Yehuda Marshall and Deborah Smith (a specialist teacher), and learn how the use of CAP has impacted on their practice and professional lives.

Read issue 19.

Read previous issues of The SEND Practitioner.

Issue 19: The SEND Practitioner

The SEND Practitioner

Issue 19
Autism, gender and gender dysphoria

Plus the Cognitive Abilities Profile

April/May 2017
With Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, Dr Sarah Hendrickx and Dr Wenn Lawson

In this issue

Autism, gender and gender dysphoria

  • A Q&A with Professor Simon Baron-Cohen: We ask Simon about identifying autistic girls; gender and the diagnostic process; the role of gender-specific specialist schools; ongoing research into autistic females; gender dysphoria and sexual identity; the ASQ; CBT; EHCPs and mental health; autism and vaccinations; and the genetic links between autistic children and their parents. Read more…
  • A Q&A with Dr Sarah Hendrickx: We speak to Sarah about autistic girls hiding in plain sight; identifying and supporting them in a mainstream setting; helping them to cope with the nuances of teenage girl friendships; and the role of gender-specific autism schools. We explore diagnosis, gender dysphoria; CBT; EHCPs and mental health. Read more…
  • Gender and autism: a personal and professional view by Dr Wenn Lawson: Wenn pens a deeply moving personal response to our three questions on gender dysphoria. We ask him about his experience of gender and autism: the barriers he encountered, the way that he overcame these barriers, and where practitioners helped. He examines the relationship between gender dysphoria and autism and makes practical recommendations for practitioners who work with autistic pupils who have gender dysphoria. Read more…

Plus

  • Exploring the Cognitive Abilities Profile (CAP): A Q&A with Ruth Deutsch. We talk to Ruth about the birth of CAP; how it’s changed over the years; its impact, growth and development; and the unique benefits that it offers pupils and educators. Read more…
  • What impact has CAP had on our graduates’ lives: Two short Q&As. With Deborah Smith and Dr Yehuda Marshall. Read more…

News

  • Real Group acquires Dyslexia Action Online Training, Online Shop and Guild. Read more…
  • Why the Ofsted Inspection Framework is a SENCO’s best friend? A NASENCO webinar with Brian Lamb OBE. Read more…
  • London CAP course this June. Read more…
  • Real Training at the Autism Show this June. Read more…
  • Marathon man: This May, our head of marketing runs for the National Autistic Society. Read more…

Editorial

“Autism is more diverse than originally thought, with new ideas being put forward every day. In fact, it’s a case of ‘the more we know, the less we know’, particularly in how gender affects individuals with autism.”

Dr Judith Gould, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Director, The Lorna Wing Centre for Autism

Judith Gould’s quote hints at the gender disparities in our understanding of autism; disparities that mean that “we don’t have such a detailed idea of what it looks like in females” (Professor Baron-Cohen). While we’ve made strides since Hans Asperger first asserted that autism did not affect females (in 1943), we’re still a country mile from a true grasp of autism across genders. Indeed, when neurodiversity and the autism spectrum are such key terms of reference in our modern discourse, it is telling that our understanding of autism across genders is not as diverse, broad and consistent as it could be.

This issue of The SEND Practitioner addresses this deficit by asking two very different experts your questions about females with autism. In this way, Professor Simon Baron-Cohen and Dr Sarah Hendrickx offer contrasting perspectives. While the former is a world-class academic, researcher, and author of ‘The extreme male brain theory of autism’; the latter is a respected consultant, trainer and coach in autism spectrum conditions who was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in her late 40s. You’ll also find a profoundly important and personal piece on gender and gender dysphoria by Dr Wenn Lawson.

To conclude this issue, Maddie Ralph’s top-notch interviews with Ruth Deutsch (co-creator of CAP) and two CAP graduates, demonstrate the impact that this course has had on dynamic assessment skills. While our news section gives you the lowdown on Dyslexia Action, our recent NASENCO webinar, the London CAP course and Autism Show (this June), and our head of marketing’s marathon exploits.

Thank you, as ever, for subscribing to, contributing to, and reading The SEND Practitioner.

Best wishes,

Edward Farrow
Editor

edward@realgroup.co.uk
Read more

Why the CAP fits! We interview two CAP delegates about the course’s impact on their professional lives

With our upcoming CAP course on the horizon, we were delighted to speak with some of our previous course delegates about how using CAP has benefitted their practice. Dr Yehuda Marshall (consultant clinical psychologist) and Deborah Smith (specialist teacher) discuss cognitive profile analysis, and how the domain structure of CAP has deepened their understanding of a client’s strengths and weaknesses. Head to our People page to read the interviews in their entirety, or find them in the forthcoming issue 19 of The Send Practitioner.

Read the interviews.

Thinking CAP? Find out more about the course.

A Q&A with Mark Farthing, our new head of operations

 

In March we were so pleased to welcome a new addition to the Real Group team: Mark Farthing. As our new head of operations, Mark will be overseeing and managing many different elements of the business, to ensure that we continue to provide a consistently efficient and outstanding experience for our delegates as we grow. We spoke to Mark about his professional background and the effect he hopes his new role will have on the company.

What were you doing in your previous role, before joining Real Group?

‘Before joining Real Group, I was employed as a master scheduler at a company called Cummins. I worked in a few different roles during my seven years at the company, but that was what I was doing most recently. The role involved taking orders and then planning all of the production for the plant, on the basis of what the best plan would be for the lines to actually build the product.’

What is your background in terms of previous employment and education?

‘My role at Cummins has really been the central point of my career so far – which was based in manufacturing – but my degree was actually based in psychology and music technology. There wasn’t a particularly clear path for me in those subjects at the time, so I started to build a career in management: managing people, production lines, and professional staff as well, and also planning large portfolios of work.’

What particularly attracted you to the role within Real Group?

‘I’m really passionate about managing people and helping them to develop, it’s something that I really enjoy. As well as that, the role is very local to me, and Real Group is of course based in the field of psychology, which was a real draw – it’s very exciting to be part of that world again. I didn’t think that I would get the opportunity to be part of it because I didn’t pursue any postgraduate study.’

What is the main purpose of your role?

‘My role is still very new and will develop more over time, but I will mainly be managing the team and bringing an operational standpoint to the role. So, for example, I will be looking at data analysis, process improvements, mapping out our processes in the department, looking at our budgets and hourly costs – all things that I have experience of, which are quite important for us to know. I want to make sure that people are given the opportunity to progress in the way that they would like to and that they can see a clear path to the next stage of their development. It’s important that people have a vision of how they would like to progress because I believe that is how you get bigger and grow as a business.

‘I think it’s a very exciting time to be part of a business like Real Group, as we are in a massive period of growth in which the company is becoming a real, professional entity. We have to be very careful operationally as we move from looking after hundreds of delegates, to thousands. That is what I believe my role will be based around largely – looking at whether we need to increase our resources to facilitate that kind of growth. I haven’t been here very long so I have a lot to learn, but it’s a really good challenge to have.’

What have you particularly enjoyed since joining the company?

‘So far I have really enjoyed meeting and getting to know the team. Everyone I have spoken to has been so welcoming and nice and they are all really helping me to learn – so I feel like I have hit the ground running. It’s nice to work with people who have such a historical insight into the company, are open and willing to learn, and help others to learn. Some members of the team used to do multiple roles and as the company gets bigger that isn’t really viable anymore. My role – as I see it – is to ensure staff members take ownership of what is theirs, with a broader view of the business, and that is quite a fine balance to strike with people. It’s a good challenge to have, that we are looking at growth.’

Is there anything you are particularly looking forward to within your role at Real Group? Perhaps something you are planning on implementing or launching?

‘I am still very new to the role of course, but I am working on analysing course feedback at the moment which is very exciting; I really want to use that to its full potential. We know that we are already doing a great job, but it is important to calibrate yourself with that feedback constantly, so that we know how we are seen by our customers. We are making a lot of changes within the organisation and looking at those changes from an internal point of view, so we must make sure that we hear the customer’s voice and understand how they see things. We also have a lot of IT projects underway, which I am working to prioritise and make sure that we focus our efforts appropriately, as those projects affect marketing, operations, and our delegates.’

What are your interests outside of work?

‘I play saxophone in a band and we regularly play shows on weekends. I also go running every day and I play cricket as much as I can in the summer.’

An update on issue 19 of The SEND Practitioner

By Edward Farrow

Towards the end of March, Professor Simon Baron-Cohen and Dr Sarah Hendrickx took part in two key interviews for April’s forthcoming gender and autism issue of The SEND Practitioner, while Dr Wenn Lawson penned an important piece on autism and gender dysphoria. Issue 19 will also feature an overview of Brian Lamb’s recent webinar for our MEd and SEND Programme delegates and an in-depth interview with Ruth Deutsch (co-creator of the Cognitive Abilities Profile).

It will publish towards the end of April.

Please do feel free to sign up if you’d like to receive it by email.

The SEND reforms, the new curriculum and the Rochford Review – in issue 18 of The SEND Practitioner

In the most recent issue of The SEND Practitioner, we discuss a range of pressing SEND issues with Edward Timpson MP and Dr Adam Boddison. Brian Lamb OBE also offers his progress analysis on various topics, including education, health and care plans (EHCPs), the local offer, and strategic engagement.

We speak to Edward Timpson MP (the Minister of State for Vulnerable Children and Families) and Dr Adam Boddison (CEO of nasen) about what has been achieved and what has yet to be achieved since the SEND reforms published. They give us their thoughts on the advisory nature of the Rochford Review and how far they think the government will heed its advice. They also answer our readers’ questions on the Code of Practice, early identification, nominal budgets, the new national curriculum, SEND and teacher training courses, and 2017 and beyond.

Brian Lamb OBE is a renowned expert in the development of SEND legislation. His progress analysis focuses on EHCPs, how objectives are being met (such as greater parental confidence) and how local authorities are coping with the new plans. He looks at the DfE survey figures, sets out what they tell us about parental engagement with strategic planning and examines the National Autistic Society’s findings in relation to parental satisfaction when it comes to children’s SEND provision. Brian also considers the SEND reforms and how we can continue to build on the positive changes that have already begun as we move to the next stage of implementation.

Issue 18 also contains some valuable insights from a survey of hundreds of delegates who have successfully completed our Certificate in Psychometric Testing, Assessment and Access Arrangements (CPT3A). We ask them about their experience of our specialist assessor course and feature two interviews with previous CPT3A delegates on the positive impact that it’s had on their careers.

Read issue 18 of The SEND Practitioner.

‘Making the invisible visible’ at the Whole School SEND Summit – with George Fielding and Simon Knight

Edward Farrow

On Thursday 23 February, I was thrilled to pop along to the Whole School SEND Summit for a smorgasbord of speeches, panels and roundtable workshops on building a community in SEND provision. Edward Timpson MP (our most recent contributor to The SEND Practitioner) delivered the keynote and set the tone for an edifying day. Post-lunch and post-roundtable workshops, I returned to the lecture hall to see a panel of speakers discuss how to ‘make the invisible visible’. This energetic debate, chaired by Simon Knight, featured a panel of people from across the education sector. At the very heart of this discussion was the need to ‘look outside of the SEN community to learn from the experiences of others’.

During the debate, I was struck by George Fielding’s (chair of the WhizzKidz Kidz Board) impassioned introduction and Simon Knight’s (Director of Education at the National Education Trust) forensic response to a parent’s question on the Code of Practice. Why? Because neither George nor the parent hailed from the typical conference complement of senior school leaders and teaching professionals. And this fact is refreshing and pressing and important, because if we are to really make a difference to the lives of those with SEND, then engaging fully with parents and those with SEND in this way will help us to ensure that we are truly ‘school-led and user-informed’.

With this in mind, I have transcribed George’s and Simon’s excellent speeches. If you get a moment, they’re really worth a read.

George Fielding

‘It’s what you do with what you’ve got’

‘Hello, my name is George Fielding, I am the chair of the board of young trustees at Whizz-Kidz, which is the largest organisation representing wheelchair users across the UK and so it is my great, great pleasure to represent them today and hopefully give you some sort of a sense of where I’m coming from and what I think needs to be changed in order to make the education system better and more accommodating for those with SEND.

‘What’s the use of two strong legs if you only run away? What’s the use of the finest voice if you’ve got nothing good to say? What’s the use of two strong arms if all you do is push and shove? What’s the use of two good ears if you can’t hear those you love?

‘That was a verse in a song that I was listening to a week ago called: “It’s what you do with what you’ve got”. And as I was listening to it I was thinking about what I was going to say today. And what those four lines reflected to me was [that] actually either everybody has a disability or nobody does. That I don’t want to sound controversial, but we all thrive in different environments, we all have different talents, abilities, different backgrounds, different experiences, different values, different beliefs and a different culture.

‘Put me on a stage and ask me to sing and dance and I can’t do it. So, I am better than my non-disabled peers in some environments, but I am much worse compared to them in others. That is just human nature, we’re all human beings. And I think that, really, what we have to do (without trying to preach to the crowd) is champion difference. There is one word that I do not like that I hear all the time and it is curriculum.

‘I do not like the word curriculum because the three core subjects that you have: English, maths and science. To me, they all seem to champion some sort of formula, some of structure, some sort of way of doing things. And the message is that if you learn that structure and repeat that structure again and again and again, you’ll always come out with an acceptable answer. You may disagree about English, but what is punctuation for if not to be put in the right place. And I don’t wish to say that to be controversial, but I wish to say – in a sense – that I think that a lot of people, they sit in class, and they don’t think their school/their society fits. They don’t think that their society is accessible or accommodates them.

‘There are four Ls to the education of people with SEND for me. People with SEND can Love, they can Learn and they can Lead. They can Learn because they can move around, they can meet and they can be mobile and they can have their voice heard. By having their voice heard they can Lead and they can be fantastic representatives in society and they can Love too. We have passions, we have desires we are, as I have said, human beings. Play on those emotions, use them, tap into the great swathes of talent that [are] currently untapped in society and you will see a much more colourful, much more vibrant and sustainable society. Because it is through teachers…parents and everyone in this room learning those three Ls, that there’s a fourth – and that is that people with SEN will Learn.

‘The most important point to me is that an education doesn’t have to have happened in a classroom. My education has happened by meeting people, by speaking with people and by voicing my opinion and by campaigning. If we limit education to a classroom and we don’t actually think about what is educational and we don’t use our expertise to help young people with disabilities/SEN transition and be proud of who they are, then we won’t get anywhere.

‘I am a proud wheelchair user, I am a proud Brit and a proud man. There aren’t many people who would say that for fear that in my community they won’t be understood. So thank you for giving me a stage on which to speak on and give up that platform to others too and I will champion you and all that you do in the future. But accept that difference [and] diversity is what makes Britain, is what makes our country, is what makes society liveable. It’s what makes us thrive and sometimes conversations need to start and people need to speak up if we ever want to see change at all. Thank you very much.’

Simon Knight

Responding to a parent’s question about chapter six of the Code of Practice

A parent’s question

‘Do you think that enough is being done about implementing chapter six of the Code of Practice (SEN support in schools’ barriers to learning) – in terms of a shift from IEPs to the graduated approach?… The graduated approach itself is a different way of doing things and I just wonder whether enough support has gone in to schools to actually enable them to see the difference and the shift in thinking that’s required to make that work well.’

Simon’s answer

‘I think that that’s a really important question. I think that it’s one of those ones that probably needs to be dealt with in two different ways. There’s a policy and accountability piece that sits with that and there is a pedagogical and a pragmatic piece that sits with that.

‘So, the accountability structures are such that quite often teachers do not feel particularly compelled to put their hands up and say “I don’t do this very well, I would like to do it better”. And so the nature of performance-related pay, appraisals and Ofsted makes it difficult for people to be truly honest about [what] their professional capabilities are and some of the work that we’ve talked about a little bit here today is about trying to create structures where we can support that. Because the barrier to learning is not always a learning difficulty, sometimes it’s a teaching difficulty, and we need to understand how that relationship works – and we need to be much more honest about that.

‘The other challenge that we’ve got, which is kind of a structural challenge, is the fact that a graduated approach, even a targeted approach is a developmental approach – and yet [has] all of the accountability of the chronological approach. So we talk about having mastery of the curriculum, but we want chronologically determined accountability structures. Those two don’t work. You cannot have a developmentally prescribed curriculum based upon the individual needs of a person and expect them all to be at a certain level by the time that they’re 11. So there’s a real challenge there for school leaders, a real challenge to be able to implement, which I suspect that the vast majority would want to be able to do, which is to focus on meeting the needs of the child. Because, at the moment, what we’re doing is that we’re focusing on meeting the needs of the system. And that system doesn’t actually reflect the needs of the children that they have within it. So that’s part of it.

‘And the other side is the amount of support that teachers are given to actually develop those skills. And so I spend quite a lot of my time working with people who find it quite tough working with kids with SEN. And it basically comes down to confidence and competence, [which] is that nobody’s actually shown how to do it so they don’t think that they can. And actually there isn’t anything special really about what we do in the specialist sector, despite its name, I wish it was something remarkable. It’s just really really good teaching based on really really good evidence that comes from the child rather than some sort of overarching structure.

‘So from two directions: we need to challenge the accountability and policy piece and we need to support and encourage practitioners to be more honest about what they do well and what they need to do better. And where families come into that is that teachers need to be much more confident about using the knowledge that sits within the family unit. Being able to draw that into the classroom so that those barriers to learning are not just being challenged by professionals who perceive themselves as being the fount of all knowledge, but work collaboratively with families who actually have an awful lot [to share] to drive the progress of children much more rapidly when we work in partnership.’

Find out more about the Whole School SEND Summit 2017.

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