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Archive: March 2021

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Living with Aspergers – an interview with SEN professional Beverley Williams

Beverley Williams

Beverley Williams is one of our delegates here at Real Training. She has had an expansive career, influencing the lives of many young people with SEN. Not only has Beverley completed multiple courses with Real Training and gained a vast amount of professional knowledge through SEN and safeguarding roles, but she was also diagnosed with Aspergers at around 50 years old. We thought it would be useful to share Beverley’s story, not only for those delegates looking to have an impact but also for those with Aspergers who may be looking for some advice. 

Discussing Beverley’s early life, there was a common challenge that she faced almost every day – being able to build meaningful friendships and understanding how to behave in certain social situations. During her time at primary and secondary school, Beverley found herself feeling exhausted by social politics. Something she also experienced in some of her job roles in later life. She acknowledges her personal daily struggle with this and now understands this to be part of her Aspergers. Explaining how she felt after her diagnosis regarding those social challenges, Beverley said “it has been really releasing on a personal level… I don’t feel I need to explain things to other people but it explains to me why I find situations hard”. Since her diagnosis, Beverley has felt a lot more confident in building relationships, explaining that now she knows what she is going to find tricky, she can prepare herself and put certain strategies in place to help her deal with different situations. 

I wanted to understand a little more about how Beverley thinks her experiences in early life influenced her approach whilst working with SEN children. She explained that she has always resisted stereotyping young people and children by their diagnosis. She explains that not everybody with the same diagnosis has the same limitations, behaviours and challenges. Her focus remains on the individual and she is highly conscious of the social isolation of SEN children, constantly working to combat this. Through her work, Beverley has noticed her ability to acknowledge each individual, recognising those who are on the edge of the social group and understanding that they may be happy there. Highlighting that this approach is strongly influenced by her experiences.

Following her own diagnosis, I wanted to know if Beverley felt her approach was influenced or changed in any way. Beverley explained the biggest alteration was a new awareness of females, acknowledging the likelihood of masking – not just Aspergers but all kinds of challenges. She feels this made her look more deeply into triggers and behaviours and spending more time getting to know each individual. 

Beverley’s learning journey with Real Training has seen her complete CCET and NASENCO. She is also currently working on the Autism Spectrum Conditions module. After gaining knowledge through her lived experiences with Autism and her varying professional pathway, Beverley continues to expand her knowledge. When asked about her time studying with us Beverley said My NASENCO tutor was fantastic. I explained about my Aspergers and she was really supportive. That gave me quite a lot of confidence to go onto the next course. I acknowledge that her support helped me to keep going and gave me the encouragement I needed. I never felt that she was making allowances nor do I think she was, but I did feel my tutor had an understanding of how I work best.”

I asked Beverley to provide us with some of her top tips, not only for other delegates working with SEN children but also for young people with Autism, highlighting the kinds of things she wishes she knew in her younger years. Although Beverley had not yet been diagnosed while she herself was at school she now understands, through her diagnosis, why she found school hard. You can see her top tips below.

Beverley’s Top Tips for working with SEN children

  1. Don’t stereotype people on the Autistic Spectrum, they are as individual as everyone else.
  2. Provide a range of strategies to mirror the range of people.
  3. Give students the opportunity to work in a calm area, avoiding sensory overload. Always tailor these strategies to their individual needs and preferences.
  4. Look for those on the edge of the group who don’t feel they fit into any specific group.
  5. Focus on an individual’s interests and strengths and then build these into your learning strategies for them. In my experience, people on the Autistic Spectrum are more likely to be engaged in their learning if you encourage them to go deeper with specific interests instead of broadening their general knowledge.
  6. Understand, if you can, that what is important to you may be totally irrelevant to someone on the Autism Spectrum and they, therefore, may not see the point in learning about some things, which may seem trivial and pointless to them.
  7. It is often exhausting for children on the Autism Spectrum to comply with expectations. If they comply at home, they might not have the energy to comply at school and vice versa. Provide opportunities for the individual to restore and refresh using whatever strategies work for them- don’t make assumptions about what these are.

Beverley’s Top Tips for young people in education with Autism

  1. It’s ok to be different, everyone is!
  2. You don’t have to pretend to be someone you’re not. It’s exhausting.
  3. Find a teacher or other member of staff you can talk to.
  4. Ask for a quiet area you can go to if you need to take a break from the noise or light, etc. If you feel embarrassed to ask for this perhaps you could find a ‘job’ you need to do.
  5. Don’t let people ‘pigeon-hole’ you or put you ‘in-a-box’ to fit their expectations.
  6. It’s ok to make a mistake because it’s all part of learning. Getting something wrong isn’t a failure, it simply means you have learned something new.

Andy Kingdon – CCET Intensive (Campus Live)

An Interview with Andy Kingdon – CCET Intensive

Andy recently took part in our CCET Intensive, January 2021 event. These events are usually held in various locations across 3 intensive learning days. Under the current circumstances, they are taking place intensively online via Campus Live. Andy works as a Learning Support Teacher and SpLD literacy intervention teacher for an independent school in Devon. In regard to SEND he has special interests in Dyslexia and behaviour. Read on to see what Andy had to say about his time studying on our CCET Intensive course and his plans for the future.

What made you choose the Real Training course over other options?

I had colleagues at work who had also completed this course with Real Training. Thanks to their suggestion that this would be a good fit for what I needed, I went ahead and booked with Real Training as well.

What was your experience of learning with Real Training?

Firstly, the course was well run during the three-day intensive online learning. All three days were very intense but the delivery was brilliant and there was plenty of time built in to talk to other participants on the course and reflect upon the learning. Completing the three-day intensive course and completing the work set in the evenings helped to cement my understanding. Secondly, after the three-day part of the course, the support I was given from my tutor was brilliant. He replied to my emails very quickly and often marked my work within 24 hours, providing insightful feedback.

How has the course helped make an impact at school?

Thanks to my completion of the CCET Intensive course, I am now able to test all the pupils I teach. I am now actively doing this and assisting in making helpful judgements on what support they require. 

How has the course helped develop you as an educational professional and what do you hope to achieve with the new knowledge/skills in the future?

Since completing CCET, I am now looking to continue my learning journey by enrolling on the AAC course. After this, I would like to look into becoming an Accredited Level 5 Dyscalculia and Maths Learning Difficulties Teacher.

Monique Van Zyl – iSENCO

iSEnCo delegateAn Interview with Monique Van Zyl – iSENCO delegate

Monique currently teaches English Literature and Studio Art at an IB International School in Beijing, China. She has a keen interest in SEND but more specifically in Social Emotional Mental Health (SEMH). Completing her iSENCO qualification with us in 2021, Monique has now gone on to start our SEMH module as part of our MEd in SEND programme. iSENCo delegate Monique talks a little more about her learning experience with Real Training and why she has chosen to study further with us below.

What made you choose the Real Training course(s) over other options?

Real Training was recommended by a friend who had completed the course a few years ago. This program suited me because of the variety of options available to make up the master’s degree. The timing of the course was also very flexible and I appreciated the option of finishing modules sooner than the scheduled submission dates.

What was your experience of learning with Real Training? 

The support during the iSENCO module was incredible. Feedback happened much faster than I expected, and genuine efforts were made throughout to assist me during the tasks. As my teaching setting does not have a SEND department, I started this course with very little knowledge or experience in this area, but my tutor carefully guided me through my initial insecurities. The platform is intuitive and easy to use, which was quite different from what I had experienced before when studying with online universities.  

How has the course helped make an impact at school?

The insight provided by the iSENCO course has been invaluable, not just for my own practice, but for my entire school setting. I have been able to share new ideas and practices that have had a direct positive impact on our learners. They have also been able to guide teaching staff to implement these strategies in their own classrooms. Although we are still a long way off from implementing the most up-to-date SEND policies in our school, with the help of Real Training’s iSENCO course, I have been able to persuade management to start improvements.

How has the course(s) helped develop you as an educational professional and what do you hope to achieve with the new knowledge/skills in the future?

As an educator, I have been able to grow in my understanding of SEND structures and the accompanying whole-school implementations thereof. Before the iSENCO course, I was unaware of the intricacies involved in running a SEND department, and I have a much more in-depth knowledge and understanding regarding the lack thereof in my setting. I am now, instead of finding fault and assigning blame to various departments, able to assist department heads in finding ways to support their pupils, usually by finding alternate and creative solutions to do so.

I believe, as a future iSENCO, the creative problem-solving skills gained through this course will help me assist and support both teachers and students better than any other program I previously considered. I look forward to stepping into a new career with Real Training as my guide.