When I first read the title, I wondered whether this little green book would be patronising and offer a simplistic overview of autism; I was pleasantly surprised at this useful manual for teachers in primary schools.
Autism is complex and using inclusive techniques for all children in mainstream can be challenging; 100 ideas for primary teachers is an accessible book that suggests various ways to support pupils.
Separated into ten parts, the sections include an understanding of autism, communication, the environment and the use of visual aids. Each page takes one element of the overall theme of the chapter.
Taking “low arousal” for example, it posits a typical question that a teacher might wrestle with when faced with this particular challenge, such as, “I can’t stimulate the rest of the group if I cut down on displays for one or two children. It isn’t right.”
A discursive exploration of how to create an autism friendly environment without your classroom becoming clinical and sterile is followed by bullet points of the possible options to pursue. This little book packs quite a punch and has a big heart.
100 ideas contains extra teaching tips, bonus ideas and “taking it further” suggestions together with free online resources. Although written for primary school teachers, most of the advice is also suitable for secondary schools and colleges.
The author Francine Bower is clearly passionate and experienced in working with children who have autism and this shows in her relaxed but informative and insightful style of writing.
I particularly liked the way a number of ideas in the book include partnership working, such as “Home-School Liaison”, for example. Bower clearly and sensitively explains that children with autism need consistency, and any conflict between school and family does not help our learners access learning or feel safe in school.
There are also times when a child with autism behaves differently at home compared with school and sharing stories with families and supporting them is vital and another obvious area for partnership working. Bower offers teachers useful links and advice on how this can be achieved.
Autism has quite rightly gained attention in education recently. This has been in part due to effective campaigning from parents and the National Autistic Society and mandatory training is on the horizon as part of any initial teacher training course.
ASD (autistic spectrum disorder, as it is now typically called) affects many of our students who are vulnerable to experiencing difficulties in school, being excluded, and suffering from poor mental health. But it doesn’t have be like this and books such as 100 ideas can support mainstream teachers to find ways to ensure children with autism can not only be included in the classroom but also thrive there.
The information in this book is accessible: some strategies can be put into place straight away whilst others require a little more thought and effort – part and parcel of inclusive teaching. It’s certainly a book I would have liked to own as a teacher due to its practical advice.
There are a few areas for improvement: I would have liked to see a summary of what autism actually is with some top tips on one page, for example. Also, the reader is signposted to other sections regularly. I can see that this is to avoid repetition of similar tips on each page, but it can be a labour- intensive considering that there are a hundred tips that should be able to stand alone.
Overall, this little book packs quite a punch and has a big heart. I would recommend to primary school teachers that you buy it, read it, and keep it on your desk to dip in and out. I guarantee it will be well-thumbed in a few years. After all, who wouldn’t want accessible tips to help support children with autism?