It is unfortunate that so many neurodivergent children are being placed in mainstream schools without proper support. This doubly disadvantages them, as they are placed in an environment they are bound to struggle with, and then blamed when they predictably fail to learn, or express their distress in the only way they know how, by being ‘naughty’.
It is also very sad that mainstream teachers are so poorly supported to make the most of having these children in their class and to understand their needs, leading to frustration, exhaustion and a sense of failure on both sides which can follow a child through school and into adult life. You didn’t ask to have this child in your classroom, and you may resent their presence, but the child has no power to change the situation.
We hope that this page will help to give teachers some help with strategies and skills to try for children who are struggling (many of the techniques described work for neurotypicals too, no-one likes a teacher who shouts!) But remember, it may take patience and experimentation to find what works – if you’ve met one neuro-divergent child, you’ve met one neurodivergent child! Sadly, there is no ‘magic bullet’ that works for everyone – but the rewards are huge when you finally figure it out!
If you’re having a day where a child’s behaviour is ‘too much’ for you, consider your own self-care and self-regulation (and need for additional support?) before you respond negatively, as this only perpetuates the cycle of low confidence, self-blame and frustration on both sides. Notice & praise the good times, and try to forget the bad times.
The same applies to school meetings, where you may be dealing with a parent who is also neuro-divergent, or who may be stressed, exhausted or struggling to come to terms with their child’s challenges (or all of these). Nevertheless, they often have useful insights and strategies to share which could be used in the classroom to help provide consistency for the learner and reduce their cognitive overload.
This section can only provide a brief glimpse of some of the best resources to help you support children who are neurodivergent, disabled or have other additional support needs. Elsewhere on our website, you will find a further Strategies page and much more information about neurodiversity and ways to overcome the challenges these children face.
CIRCLE inclusion pack (primary and secondary schools)
The downloadable, photocopiable primary school CIRCLE assessment tool can help you assess how inclusive your classroom is.
It has a very helpful chapter (Chapter 4, page 47 onwards) on strategies to support specific skills such as attention and concentration skills, organisational and planning skills, posture and mobility (gross motor) skills, dexterity and manipulation (fine motor) skills, social, emotional and relationship skills, and verbal and non-verbal communication skills for learners.
The secondary school version can be downloaded below –
Communication Friendly Environments
This Glow blog has a large range of printable visual resources using Boardmaker images covering topics like sensory differences & strategies, reporting versus telling tales, listening looks different for different people and much more. It also has some visual aids for lesson topics. The webpage search doesn’t work well, so some exploration is required (click on ‘uncategorised’ then scroll down), but useful PDFs can be downloaded and saved.
Learning about children’s mental health through film
Nip in the Bud is regularly adding new free resources – short films and fact sheets to raise mental health awareness among school staff, teacher trainees, anyone working with children, parents, carers and young people. Films include:
- Autism Spectrum: Tips for teachers
- How to recognise ADHD symptoms in children
- ADHD in children: Tips for teachers
They also have great ‘tips for teachers’ fact sheets (scroll down that webpage to see them).
Autism resources for teachers
Young people explain Autism from Ambitious about Autism – teens explain autism
Amazing Things Happen – useful cartoon video to explain autism positively to primary-age children
Understanding social communication in the classroom from the National Autistic Society
An American site, Autism Teaching Strategies, has lots of useful downloads on social skills, some translated into Polish, including communication, emotions and interactions, ,as well as tips on how to use the resources – see ‘other’ on the website. It also has some simple cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) videos designed for children on topics such as negative thinking and predicting without proof.
Visual perception in Autism – autism.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/professional-practice/visual-perception
An Autism Evidence Based Practice Toolkit for use with the SCERTS™ Assessment and Planning Framework from the National Autism Implementation Team
The local Inclusion and Support service has good resources and CLPL section including resources to help teachers in supporting pupils with barriers to learning.
Some things we like from the Toolbox:
CALL Scotland AAC iPad app wheel
The CALL Scotland ‘wheel’ of Apps provides a categorised guide to iPad Apps for individuals with complex communication support needs, who may need to use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).
Top 5 autism tips: inclusion in education
Finally, this article on the National Autistic Society website, provides a handy overview of key principles for inclusion.