Durham University: New online teaching resource to help autistic and neurodivergent pupils

Our Centre for Neurodiversity and Development, in partnership with Durham County Council, has launched a free online evidence-based training tool to help teachers better understand the challenges faced by autistic and neurodivergent children and young people, with practical ways to support them.

Attention, arousal, and anxiety
The ‘Triple-A’ training platform focuses on, and takes its name from, three particular areas that can provide challenges for children and young people who are autistic or neurodivergent – attention difficulties, arousal differences (sensory processing) and heightened anxiety.

These are not easily ‘seen’ but research from our Centre for Neurodiversity and Development has shown that Triple-A difficulties can have a significant impact on children being able to achieve their best and lead to several challenges at school.

Practical support strategies
The portal gives teachers practical and adaptable strategies they can use in the classroom and school environment, as the school setting can present unique challenges for autistic and neurodivergent pupils.

They include:

Developing ‘sensory cool boxes’ and ‘calm down kits’ of preferred calming items tailored to individual pupils to help them regulate in times of sensory or anxiety distress.
Guidance for organising classrooms to help reduce arousal and support attention.
Developing the emotional well-being and regulation skills in children and young people through, for example, emotional well-being action plans.
A step-change in supporting children
The training has been co-designed with autistic people, teachers, educational psychologists, and parents of autistic children to ensure the experiences and insight of those impacted by these challenges are included.

The Triple-A project is also being supported by charities, including the North East Autism Society, who will be introducing the training within all their education services.

The hope is that Triple-A will encourage a step-change in understanding and supporting the needs of autistic and neurodivergent children and young people in the classroom and to help them reach their potential.

Case study – Making classrooms more inclusive
Marie Preece, from Devon, was part of the development of the Triple A training tool, as part of the Advisory Board. She is both the parent of an autistic child and an autistic person herself.

Marie’s daughter, who is 12, took part in the focus groups that helped to shape the content of the training course, and Marie was part of the panel that tested the training and engaged with teaching staff.

Speaking about the Triple-A training, Marie said: “Triple-A has the potential to change the culture of classrooms to become more inclusive for all.

“If embraced across the whole school, this tool could literally change the face of progress and attainment for those children who are often left behind through no fault of their own.

“Triple-A would help my daughter because every member of school staff would have an understanding of what it is like to be autistic, rather than her having to continually explain this to staff, especially at the start of a new school year.

“In the same respect, the classroom would automatically cater for my daughter’s needs rather than her having to explain how she needs to be supported in every lesson.”

“We owe it to all autistic children to give them the best educational setting for them to thrive and reach their potential.”

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