Autism – Introduction
The Springfields Academy has 210 pupils on roll, with over 90% of these pupils having a formal diagnosis of autism.
As a result, the school continues to research, adapt and introduce/scaffold new models of support to meet the needs of a diverse autism community. We are hopeful that this section of the school’s website will provide the information that you require around the schools approach to understanding the autistic child.
What is autism?
Autism was first described by Leo Kanner in 1943 and Hans Asperger in 1944 and since then there has been significant research and many theories that have been proposed to explain or describe autism.
Research suggests that ‘despite the increasing sophistication of research in autism, there remains no definitive autism theory, only a range of growing theoretical evidence that tries to fully explain it’.
In terms of the diagnostic label itself, there is no single way of describing autism that is universally accepted and at Springfields we acknowledge that individual preferences vary widely depending on a number of factors, including a person’s relation with/connection to autism and the model of disability to which they subscribe.
We therefore agree and subscribe to Leatherland’s (2017) definition of autism, that,
‘Autistic individuals share a neurological type, which is qualitatively different to that of non-autistics, and which will necessarily impact, both positively and negatively, on aspects of their thinking and learning; sensory processing; social relational experiences and communicative style, abilities and preferences. An autistic persons experience of and ability to be successful in the world will be dependent on the closeness of compatibility, between their individual profile of skills and requirements and their physical and social environment. Levels of sensitivity to environmental factors vary between individuals, and within the same individual overtime that the presentation of autism is ever changing. A person’s neurological type, however, remains constant, and being autistic is a lifelong identity’.
At Springfields, we understand the unique impact autism has on each individual, and as a school strive to accept the autistic child and develop an understanding from their perspective making adjustment to meet education, care and health needs.
Medical v social model?
Autism currently has a medical status and is diagnosed by medical professionals according to criteria set out in the manuals of psychiatric disorders (DCM-5, ICD-10).
The diagnostic labels of autism disorder, Asperger's syndrome, high functioning autism and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) have been replaced by the umbrella term, autism spectrum disorder and autism. Whilst the pupils at Springfields have been diagnosed using these manuals, we support children based on need and environmental factors.
This social model implies that the problem that an autistic child might have is rooted in the environment/society – and that changes and adaptions within society will reduce or eliminate the negative issues faced. It is true that autism with comorbidity can be extremely disabling, but changes in attitudes, adjustments and understanding within society can go a long way in reducing the disadvantages the autistic person frequently face. This approach to the child’s education and care, coupled with the correct therapeutic and medical interventions allows the children at Springfields to succeed, develop a sense of belonging and make progress towards lifelong goals.