Autism Toolbox a resource for Scottish Schools

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NAS Advice for teachersSign up to MyWorld, and have practical tips on helping autistic children emailed to you every fortnight. Find information on teaching pre-school children right through to students in higher education.

Support for pupils from ENQUIRE Enquire’s website for young people has had a huge makeover thanks to the help of 75 young people and now has a new brand name - REACH. The core message is that no-one is out of reach, and that the right support can make all the different to pupils who are struggling at school.  The site includes lots of advice from young people themselves. You can visit the site at:    ENQUIRE had input from a number of young people with Autism during the development of the site and there is autism specific information featured (and plans to include more in the future).   

Differentiation, adaptation, and modification - Advanced Training Materials:E-learning materials commissioned in response to a Government recommendation, following the Lamb Inquiry (2009). They are designed to support teachers in mainstream schools who wish to gain advanced and specialist skills. This unit examines the issues of differentiation, adaptation and modification in the context of supporting pupils with autism to access the curriculum.

The National Strategies (2009) Inclusion development programme (IDP): supporting pupils on the autism spectrum.  London: Department of Children, Schools and Families and Autism Centre for Education and Research, University of Birmingham. Free online materials introducing school staff to autism -  one for Primary and Secondary with accompanying pdf, the  other for Early Years with accompanying pdf 

NAS: Autism spectrum disorders; a resource pack for school staff (Scotland pdf ) includes information about autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and how they may affect young people in primary and secondary schools, although the principles of the guidance here can also be applied in pre-school and in further education.

Autism Education Trust: A guide for teachers (pdf) 

NAS: Education: classroom and playground - support for children with autism spectrum disorders 

Contents of the guide include 
  • setting clear classroom rules
  • helping to teach social skills and play skills
  • communicating clearly and giving children time to process information
  • creating an ASD-friendly environment
  • support in the playground, including the buddy system and circle of friends
  • lunchtime clubs and structured activities.

NAS: Understanding difficulties at break time and lunchtime Guide (pdf) includes information about lunchtime clubs, buddy systems, social skills classes, bullying, and creating a safe place for pupils with an ASD to go to if they feel especially anxious or need some time out.


Supporting children‘s learning code of practice (Revised edition) (2010)  This code replaces the original code of practice published in 2005 in order to take account of the 2009 Act. It explains the duties on education authorities and other agencies to support children‘s and young people‘s learning. It provides guidance on the Act‘s provisions as well as on the supporting framework of secondary legislation. 

Approaches which can help staff support a pupil with autism in the classroom may include

Scottish Strategy for Autism Menu of Interventions: Scottish Government (2013)

Tools for teachers: practical resources for classroom success. London:Available to purchase from  Autism Education Trust. .

Describes how to work with children with autism,. Contains DVD and provides photocopiable resources.Tools for Teachers brings together over 70 autism-specific materials and simplifies some of the terminology surrounding autism. It features tried and tested resources, each with a description of how to use it and why it works.


Click here for Linda Hodgdon ( Essentials Every Classroom Must Have for Autism Success

One thing that we know is that the majority of students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (and lots of other students, too) are visual learners. You’ll see lots of visual tools on my essentials list.

(1)  Camera

This can be one of your most powerful communication tools. They are so common now. You probably have a camera on your phone that you carry in your pocket. Teachers can take pictures or you can teach students to use the cameras on their own phones. Take pictures of everything. Use them in the phone or print the pictures as needed. Use your photos for conversation starters, demonstration tools or reminders to help students remember what to bring to school

(2) Calendar

Posted on a wall, written in a notebook or accessed on a smart phone, the calendar is an essential tool for helping students orient to their flow of life. Calendars can focus on group information at school. But many students need a personal calendar for school info or one that also includes home and family information. Does that mean one for a classroom and one for personal needs? Possibly yes.

 (3) Schedule

 The daily schedule has finally become one of the most used visual tools. That’s because it works really well to help students follow their daily routines. Everyone benefits from knowing what is going to be happening today.

 (4) Predictable routine

 Predictable does not mean rigid. Students will follow routines, demonstrate less stress and exhibit better behavior when they know what to expect. Cameras, calendars and schedules are some of the really useful tools to help students understand when something expected is changing or when something new is going to occur. Rigid means nothing changes. Predictable means giving enough information so students know what to expect.

 (5) Quiet spot (not punishment)

 Sometimes things get too fast, too noisy or just plain too much. There can be many causes. Those are the times when some of our students start “bouncing off the walls,” “melting down,” or showing us in many ways that things are not going well. This is when adults naturally start talking too much to try to calm things down. Instead, a goal is to teach students to use a “quiet spot” which is a designated location that will help them regroup. Use something visual to help get them there. That quiet spot can have a special name and may be equipped with some items that promote relaxation. This should not be used for punishment. It’s an opportunity for calming.

 (6) Visual tools

 Pictures, objects, written language and anything else VISUAL is used to support communication. The calendar and schedule are just two visual tools. A supportive environment will provide a variety of other visual supports to assist students in multiple ways for successful participation.

 (7) Note pad & pencil

 No matter how much pre-planning you do, stuff happens. The temptation during those times is to try to talk it through. The problem with that strategy is that it often doesn’t work. Especially when students are confused, upset or when they don’t understand, that pencil & paper can become a lifesaver.

 (8) Proper work environments

 Individual students may have specific needs. Think about sensory needs related to things such as sound, sight, or touch. Size or shape of furniture, location of activities, or actions of other students can be significant. What distractions or disturbances can affect a student’s success?

 (9) Organized work spaces

 Label the environment so students know where to go, what to do and where things belong. Make sure work places contain the correct materials or that students know appropriate procedures to solve problems in work settings.

 (10) Rules

 What are the rules? Everyone needs to know. Too many is not good. Some are location specific. Identify the important ones. Post them. Review them.

 (11) Timer

 Time management is difficult for lots of students. Transitions can be challenging. When do you need to stop? When do you prepare for change? How long is this activity going to go on and on? Timers help. There are many kinds. Visual timers like the Time Tracker or the Time Timer, kitchen timers, phones or watches with a timer function or timers on an iPad or computer are all great options.

 (12) Effective communication partners

 Staff who are committed to using multiple forms of communication help students achieve success. Showing instead of telling makes a huge difference for student success.

 Of course, there will be variations, depending on age and skill level of students. Classrooms will have differences. But these essentials are essential. The problem is that we don’t always use what we know.

 Just an idea

Have each staff person use this list as a checklist to evaluate each environment where your students spend time. That could generate some interesting conversation and collaboration. The adults probably won’t see everything the same.

 A word of caution

 It’s easy to eliminate things from this list of essentials with the excuse that students are too “high or low functioning” or too young or too old. Another complaint is that something on the list is not “appropriate” for some reason. Sometimes strategies are declared unnecessary because the communication partners don’t feel like doing them.

 Just know that all these essentials work really well for student success.

Cumine, V., Dunlop, J. and Stevenson, G. (2010).Asperger syndrome: a practical guide for teachers. 2nd ed. London: Routledge

Attwood,T  Asperger's Syndrome DVDTony Attwood goes into depth on three important issues; Anger management, teaching teachers, and teenage issues

Bashe, P. and Kirby, B.L. (Revised 2005) The Oasis Guide to Asperger Syndrome: Advice, Support, Insight and Inspiration

These Shared Resources are included as examples of what has been developed in particular settings to provide information for staff, including supply and non teaching staff.. They may have to be adapted to meet needs in other contexts.
We hope they give you ideas and inspiration to develop ones to suit your own school or pupil.

ASDIN Toolkit -  booklet for staff identifying key elements of support for pupils with autism, Dumfries and Galloway . Includes - Understanding Time - Communication - Interests & Motivators - Sensory strengths and needs - Visual information - Social Stories - Iceberg Approach

Nursery and Primary BookletThis booklet has been compiled by Borders Outreach team to offer strategies and advice for those working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in mainstream schools.  Advice on - First few days -  Issues which may arise -  Situations which may require additional planning - Transitions

Informative booklets (found at the bottom of the page in this link) These have been developed by the Falkirk Council Children with Disabilities Team, Occupational Therapy. Although the target audience is parents/carers they provide excellent information for school staff. Titles include - Asperger's Syndrome - Teenagers; Asperger's Syndrome; Autistic Spectrum Disorder; Life Skills; Making Sense of Sensory Behaviour. A new resource has been added in 2016 - Life Skills - Teenagers.. Though not specific to young people with autism the hints and tips are relevant for anyone working with young people in this age group.

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