How can 21st century research on autism empower London’s teachers? – UCL Lunch Hour Lecture

good afternoon hello and a very warm welcome to this lunch hour lecture and hello at the same time to our online audience and watching just say that questions are open to everybody including those on watching online they might like to know that the Twitter feeds that this is at UCL lol HL and the slide event code is for 536 but for now I’m very pleased to introduce from the Institute of Education Joseph means and who sent in his record titled how can 21st century research on autism empower London’s teachers over to Genesis thank you very much thank you very much everyone for coming so my name is Joseph Lynch and I’m a senior lecturer at UCL Institute of Education and my research interests and work hour around sex education leads and inclusion and I’ve done significant as a work about sources of Education and good elusive technologies were used with autism in the classroom as well as on the professional practice of teachers and particularly around of knowledge and teacher education thinking about what is it that teachers need to know to be effective inclusive teachers pacifica what is it that we might think that they want to need to know about things like autism and other categories of special educational needs and this lecture is around a very small project many that we did thinking about how we can make research on autism accessible to teachers working in mainstream culture with children with autism and this is a collaborative project so I was working with several colleagues what the Chris Brown and dr. Sarah project the UCL instead of cognitive neuroscience and my colleague Sarah Colette he was a Nordic today again from ECL areas so autism is something which is very much a share in the media in awareness is growing and awareness ever since it came up as a diagnosis by Connor and I so just in the 1940s but does increasing interest and awareness in it so that means that there’s any higher incidence of it or not is a different question but some of it everyone is aware of and it is something about being different as you can see in the picture being different in some way to specifically and when we think about what autism is well we do know quite a bit about what it is it’s something to do with genes don’t have a genetic component referring to do with biology with neurons as what goes on in the brain and it’s something to do with behavior and although we talk about autism spectrum disorder the spectrum is very important because there’s a very wide range of behaviors which go together of course autism so you’re here for people to work with children with autism well if you know if you know one child with autism and you know one child with autism it’s so very clever about having having said that there are things that we can see and a very sad that it is considered a condition a diagnosable condition clearly suggests there are some elements of commonality and one way of thinking about that is so that it’s to do with at the cognitive level issues with mind reading so that’s about three well if I’m thinking about what someone else is thinking about because me what they might be thinking about me so that’s something that we do all the time so for example if you go to a party and you tell a joke and everybody loves somewhere in your mind you’ve got an understanding of why it is they a lot of things have to do you don’t think about it it’s just there automatically but you’ve got this sense of their perspective and their perspective has been different yours and in people with autism that doesn’t

happen quite as informatica Lee one of the classic ways that this has been investigated is by something called the sally-ann test which goes back long way it goes back to work by which is risk here at UCL as summer’ banker and Cambridge so what you do is this scenario here you hope you show it to a child and you might do that gives you a picture or using actual factual models it’s a bigger security what Sally and adds it Sally come to put the ball in the basket she then goes away while she’s away and come fix the ball out of the basket and fix it into the box and so then Sally comes back then ask the child where is Sally go to loose the ball well you think what you think you look for the ball in the basket is that place you left it so most children will show that so children with autism not exclusively but nevertheless are more likely to say that you’ll look for it in the box much more difficult for them to put themselves in someone else’s shoes see what he might look like from another four six so the consequences of that or on the side is mentalizing difficulty sometimes referred to a theory of mind difficulty is that you’re going to find it more that’s not to do things like understanding sarcasm or jokes you’re going to find it more difficult to relate to people because it’s a although we think people who are new a typical approach the phrase it’s often is very nearly typical take these things very much for granted they’re actually central to the way that we relate to each other we’re going to find it more difficult to engage in friendship you’re going to find Reese lower at learning social conventions and the implications for learning if that you have these difficulties from a very early age the way that you will learn about social interactions about the social world is similarly going to be limited from that early food and development so you’re going to miss out on opportunities for social learning social communication so our implication feelings I ran that for the classroom so children with autism will find it difficult to pick up on nonverbal cues coming back to the joke it’s been about telling a joke often it’s very much not just with the words that you about it from out and it’s the way that you say that your body language the way that you might wake a particular point in telling the jokes and all of those things are they’ve been more difficult for sure to whether were losing understanding non literal language understanding why somebody has done something again coming back to having a belief in somebody else’s shoes and coping with changes in routine so there are lots of potential issues to say well children with autism are going to are different from the next Valley difference is about them it is a difference and in the structured environment of the courtroom which works in a particular line it’s a structured line having someone who’s different me the challenge is the future in terms of how they can include those children effectively in the life of the party so they might think nice things need things like explicit explanations and instructions schools and things are different and affixes with social relationships it’s also about each other it is mentalizing but there are lots of other cognitive theories around authors about how we might think about what autism is and one of those is called weak central coherence and again this is really quite a bit of work of us and Frances happy as well and the idea with weak central periods as an explanation for autism is to say well that people with autism find it difficult and to see the bigger picture but they’re very good at focusing on details as you show up a complex picture we might be able to pick out specific details of it that other people may find it’s harder to do so in some ways you can actually just think and in some ways it is aspect for example some people with autism can be very good at tasks and jobs which

involve specific details examples software engineering often something to exclude or it can be very good at software because it requires very close to attention to specific details they find it harder to see the bigger picture so I know also it automated sometimes they can get very focused on particular details of the environment and some people would argue that that is an explanation it’s a life some people with autism have issues with sensory information so they can be oversensitive to sensory stimuli it’s linked to the idea of focusing too much on details so that if things are very noisy there’s a lot of light a lot of color that they can find it difficult to and can have a kind of sensory overload which can lead to anxiety that’s another element of autism now we talked about one two areas there very briefly that the thing is that that’s through very small elements around think about what autism is and this is from a paper that was published in 2015 and they were basically looking well how many papers academic papers that we published around autism and they were actually only looking at actually a subset of particular types of pieces nevertheless so what they’re telling us is that in 2014 there were 3,000 academic papers at least is there’s probably many more than that published around autism so loads of people in the world many of them here at UCL working or in particular in psychology and in psychiatry and in medicine writing and seeing work and research about autism publishing papers around it so 3000 is a lot of papers I mean you know nobody in the world could be sleep as effective in one year let alone we we teachers who are working so if it what are teachers doing teachers spending their time in school teaching children and they’re very very busy they’re busy planning lessons of is marking their baby thinking about their children having said that very other people who do the work which is a little today most children with autism are in mainstream schools like all children in the country when they’re between school and insulate most of their waking lives sixth sense in school the people who are with them who are doing the work with impart pictures so these are the people who are most likely to be able to have an impact on their life so how can we make a connection this is what this research is about it’s been all this academic research and what teachers are doing in the classroom it’s not an easy question to answer and it links into broader work here about how we can bring research generally into the work that teachers use to figure another way how good we’ve met how can we make teaching and evidence-informed profession so so what the we did and again this is a small project is we it’s a work around the idea of research learning community this is an existing idea that my colleague Chris Brown at UCLA we initiated and he’s already done purchased at a larger scale work on this nothing to do with autism or social needs or the freezer and it involves having a small group of teachers from a couple schools coming together and thinking about issues related to teaching and learning and thinking about how research evidence could be used in the work that they’re doing and the idea of this kind of work to think about what that evidence includes not work that evidence because we often hearing medicine about evidence-based medicine very common phrase the issue though when we’re thinking about teaching is that teaching is a very complex environment it’s different to when you break your legs when somebody stretching you and to both of you create a new antibiotic you go out you do a randomized control trial see is it effective or is it not effective you have a paper about it that will tell you what you have to do you do it once or shoot it off it’s a bit of a simplification but nevertheless that’s what we would think about we think about evidence pieces the clear evidence base it will tell us what it is that we need to do and that works well for science it works well in general for medicine it doesn’t work quite so well for education

because education is about teachers in the classroom and the different figures that you care but any figures that a teacher in the classroom will have handouts and interactions with a different interaction during the course 400 every Tuesday or all week whatever is it’s a lot of interactions it’s very very complicated what’s going on in the column because social fields are complicated figures and also alter them tell me about the autism it was about it being a spectrum again it’s a conflict between we talked about a huge provide variety of behaviors that come into this umbrella of autism not a clearly different we know gets about it we have some understanding by the but our understanding is really quite limited this is all about behavior and interaction how people work socially these things are too complex for us to have a very clear evidence and at the same time what’s important to think about is not just what’s there in evidence for what there in terms of professional experience because in the end the teacher and the conference the person who really knows the child the question how we can bring that knowledge of the India virtual child that the teacher is working with together with what we might be able to glean from research so what we did was we worked with these schools in Tower Hamlets Phoenix into the special school find a primary and swifty Street primary we had six teachers and the way the research learning community works is you have four sessions where you work with all of the groups or they come out of school what does a group over there to get it yeah and Sam to take their own little research project which is based around thinking let’s come up with a a question let’s investigate what is that the research and our own professional experience like colors let’s try something out let’s evaluate it and let’s reflect on it and we first response to particular areas that will fit them with us is based on the interests of the teachers we focus on making positive relationships if you see that the key area for what we’re children with autism in the classroom and dealing with sensory problems this is related to that particular interest for the children that they were working with in the classes so then what did we do in terms of thinking how we could begin to make research evidence accessible presence so and again this is all based on existing work of our folks with phone and social as if here has already been involved with we did a strict activity so what we do is we build a we write and research a literature reviews which looks at about twenty to twenty academic papers and puts it into a narrative that’s accessible to the teachers we don’t give it to them what we do is we chop it up and chop it up into strips or danceable sticks sometimes those sites of information and then we ask the teachers to take that put it together into groups that make sense to them and they had ideas but if you just good teachers it’s big literature review well you know are they going to go away and read it is it going to be something that’s accessible so because i’m not generally in the habit of spending a lot of time reading research articles the idea of this type of approach is that offered above weight in those little to think about it and think how it relates to their practice after that give them the risk of literature reviews to go where to leave it and after that we are some so identify perhaps a couple of papers learn articles they might be really interested from that from that and then to read those in more detail the whole idea be well this is a one approach of making the research evidence especially so one of the things that one of the books picked up on was around sensory based interventions that’s essentially where when you’ve got children who are having issues with sensory stimulation that you introduce some activities into their routine which will help them to regulate their sensory input have the state to regulate the remote emotions those are all to do with things that could be added into the timetable during the day that could be built into what’s going on in the culture there’s a list see if it could be things to do with rushing or massaging for some children wearing a heavy death outfit to feel more integrated everything’s like using six sticky plaque sticking materials as in messy flavor examples and again it’s interesting the of the papers that we sent them one of them said well these closely based

interventions don’t work when you look at the literature around them and you look at the the quality of the studies that have been done according to the authors who wrote this review well there’s not that much very strong evidence available again that’s quite common with autism it’s quite common with most things that we see in education there isn’t often very very strong evidence saying here that really really works and that really really doesn’t get very oscillating but there was another paper which they well actually maybe sometimes it can work a chance children with problems I did with problems with emotional regulation so they had even in their mind when they were thinking about what they wanted to do in terms of said project and then as they will formally – what to do one of the other things we get them to do is to do a modeling activity and again this is a way of them be able to internalize and think about what it is that they want to put into practice or what the research evidence and what their professional practice might mean to them and this is the outcome of and it might look a little childish that object really effective when you can do it and the awesome about it they tell you how this help them formulate their thinking and this model here is for one of the children in their classroom they were still stated in showing us at the top that’s how it feels to them how the classroom kills for them and at the bottom that’s how we’d like it the project is it unstructured it’s confusing it’s difficult to understand everything feels like a mess the question was how could we make it feel more like a calm structured understandable environment where I feel safe okay and it’s project as well and a research when a community approach isn’t just about going for change with the individual teachers who are involved but it’s about making a change of course less school so that that school as a whole begin to be thinking more about how they could make use of research evidence in their work one of the other activities that we do is is around opinion formers and we particularly true for the teachers are going to be there YouTube one who’s a senior leader and one is there’s a Clarkson teacher so that you’ve got someone who’s at the top someone who’s also of the what the chalk face work for what works for so to speak now in schools you typically think about the head teacher being at the top there’s a thing on the top and you’ve got the senior leadership team then you’ve got all the teachers on the bottom so using some elements of social network theory so research learning community approach which well actually what I sent what actually happens is that opinion formers people have an influence on what happens in an organization can often be a different position and it’s about who you meet when you’re at the water cooler it’s about conversations that happen in the corridor not necessarily what it is that you just hear in the staff meeting on the headpieces doing what we should do X Y and X and it’s thinking about those kind of networks that can make a difference to actually what goes on in a school we ask the teachers as well to do an exercise based on that where they map out networks of influence within their school and actually really like doing that and from that we get them to think about how they could as part of the project influence what goes on in their schools and some of them weren’t that used to being in the role of opinion former at least explicitly went on and we’re involved with giving presentations about the work that they did a lot of staff panting softly things and as we’ll see we think that that didn’t lead to change throughout the school okay so coming on to the specifics of what happened so we had in one source through teachers and they’d had some experience of working with children with autism but not very much trading in it so this wasn’t an area that they knew a huge amount amount about and they focused on one child Richard who was five years old and he had these issues with sensory simulating the centering position sorry it’s very difficult out when it didn’t work he would act out he would get very upset he such it’s a sensory environment water right friends you would see everyone would be anxious about setting this is the way he would act because of that in the process which is not unusual for children with up switch between with autism so what they did was they thought about the baseline

so we start off a gaming table this what do you think is going on for this child or the picture that you were to it at the moment so they do some initial observation what they also get talk to the occupational therapist he was consulting for the schools around they work with this child and one of the interesting comments that we got later all what we did introduces is a teacher one of the things that they said was that I felt that we were able to have an informed conversation with the OT with the occupational surface because of the work that we did well it was very interesting because wife site was showing that they were beginning to think well as professionals we can begin to access the evidence about their about autism just as much as look specialists who might be coming in he’s telling us what to do and they also heard that this child Richard he would engage already in some independent self-soothing structures and again that’s very common for children with autism linked with sensory issues that they’ll self-regulate in some ways that might be something like slapping activities attacking activity later or actions which it’s designed to calm themselves down when they’re feeling anxious because that’s really too soon sensory stimulation and what they decided to do partly as a result of boots the literature review partly as a result of their discussions with the occupational therapist was to try out a sensory timetable for this child so thanks a timetable involved going back to the literature about sensory intervention a variety of things that they added into the timetable as a regular time and some of those would be for the whole class and some of those would be selected individual things like let’s say we things like coextensively snacks yet you get the children to help each other self-regulate so you do that that’s fine pressure on there the way of of of helping with regulation are around senses and other sensory activity to deviate that particularly ones which would to do with fall and very often carry a significant LML one which is zero and three simulation those were added in to be hind tables over a couple of months for this chunk and then they affect the impact of that so getting the child themselves to give a view of what they thought was where they were in terms of their emotional state and staff as well would make records and we can see what result of what that looked like that the type this is what the child was recording and that’s the bottom other comments from the soft working rhythm early to track through what was happening with that child and then hypothesize about what is for being privation making a difference okay so at the end when they reported it back to their colleagues first of all they identified which they hadn’t seen before that so you might think it’s obvious in a way you might be stupid but clearly it wasn’t for them beforehand that hunger and Titus had a big effect on Richards emotional regulation that’s indicating threat to them but actually that they need from the path hopeful and interesting in the research papers they look further to that identically that was also something that was noted there that was an element that could often have a big impact conservative hygienic century issues relates to emotional regulation but they felt that there were more episodes of reason being happy and being distressed sometimes of anxiety and distress were less frequent we need to be cautious in how far we go in interest to it clearly for them in their own settings they did feel that this is something that had helped weird switches and they also saw that he was making more attempts at communicators I particular said because of Richard was nonverbal Matt definitely didn’t communicate in a you specs alternative methods for communication it’s pretty comical picture exchange communication system which is a way of was children with autism our nonverbal use images and pictures to communicate so their sense was that he was making more a transaction in occasion at the end of various interventions and that he seemed perhaps not a bit happier so perhaps perhaps it was the case that going back to that model picture things weren’t quite as unstructured and scary

and anxiety provoking actually did feel a little bit seizure and then coming back to the idea of its impacting on the school as a whole the the school decided to introduce a system of showing three breaks of course to school and at least the senior leadership felt so this is something that could make a difference now we haven’t flex to go on and see what impact this is hard going on is this year so certainly at that that differs at the end of the project it seems that the whole school as a whole had to some extent taken this on board so obviously this is a very small project and it leaves those thank you well heard this type of research could the type of approach really be effective okay what we want to do is some largest scales do this from weird a much larger groups of schools have hearts across a local authority of course multifamily Academy trucks I’m really seeing in a more structured ways whether the use of its approach of research learning communities around autism education could make a difference to has work and a two element to that one of wicked what for the teachers feel do they feel more confident in engaging with research do they feel that the beginning to be able to me what I could go and independently find out about research that’s out there in some way and do they think it’s making a difference actually the work of the school and the that it having four children with all students in the parson doesn’t answer the big question it goes back to those images actually do one with the glass of the paper and one with the teacher at the board perhaps there isn’t an answer to this issue of wealth what’s the relevance of all the fact adem acknowledge to teachers is it either relevance isn’t at all and how can we make it accessible to them it doesn’t give us an answer to that and at least it kind of starts with on the journey to fixie around autism education of see how we could explore and find out more about that thank you thank you very much Joseph and and now I have open it up for questions and we just check are there questions from so we’ll have the start off at home and any questions from the Filipino moment is one of the back see you’ll get into at the beginning that diagnosis of autism has increased everything is why do you think that is well um but I think most most people working in the field think that it’s it’s increased because of increased awareness so in general in something that people are thinking about more for people who work in education people work in health is or work in social services if some of the people are more aware of as well there has been much more work done on early diagnosis so we’re now have although that implementation is very variable and I think it England it’s particularly variable which is highly related to funding which we do now have internet feeling much better tools that allow us to diagnose autism Lenny thank you from the age of about 18 months and two years the most tools were there weren’t there we go back 15 20 years ago we didn’t have them so I think that’s the diagnostic tools increase awareness but I don’t I don’t think I don’t it most in the field think that this is an interview particular with increased incidence too much – it’s not that more people have got autism now and had it you know a hundred years ago or 200 years or just more aware that all about it fun yeah I’ll take the online question just now hello so two questions from Friday I guess I kind of linked about who else to engage in this project and one of them says this project is focused on current peaches would you consider doing work with newly qualified teachers and those on their way to become one and another is about what do you think the influence of parents expecting teachers to be experts it is and how connecting back well I’ve actually been involved in a lot of work

around initial teacher education and development of their understanding around slice education live in general – including autism and some exams and not not not restricted to the autism so I do think that it’s important that we think about this in terms of teacher education generally so we need to think about what is it that teachers need to know when they forget when there’s been a photo into training what do they need to know in the first five years I’ll teach you and then perhaps what do they need to know when they’re really established and they may need to know different things at different stages so again it comes back to teachers being busy when they’re doing initial teacher education again particular in England where we have very short time for initial teacher education most of the programs that people do in English of 10-month courses and there’s already a huge about things that they have to do and government focus is not it’s actually becoming more on special needs but there’s so many things are the government say this is what we have to put engineers to Mississippi education phonics examples is like I’ve been over the last a really big emphasis of what we should be the gear back in teacher education there’s not that much space for it and also when you start doing it how much can you actually take in and particularly including pub significant experience in the classroom whatever is going to be useful to you so there’s all these issues there and it’s quite a complicated area to think about what’s the right way to approach it but certainly it’s important that we think about it and the second question was about her parents thinking that teachers will be extra itself and well that’s that’s a good question I agreed it was potentially from some risk there in that it’s firm parent as there is listed that that parents may be set up with a self a false expectation of what it is that teachers can do and had and what their what they’ll be able to help them with [ __ ] I think that question comes down to this of how we think about teacher teaching of the profession so and partly that comes back to how long how much input and how much money we put into training teachers teaching has is a low speakers profession certainly in much of the much of the Western world for very low speakers present people don’t think it’s important which is why the government only is willing to spend the equivalent of ten months for training teachers but I come back to the point if teachers offenders to time for children they spend time they’re the ones who are doing the work now we wouldn’t ask the same question about doctors who wouldn’t ask the same question about engineers we wouldn’t ask the same question about Lloyd so I would put it the other way why are we asking that question about it is not a broad societal issue and part of being part of my work is to say well actually we should be rethinking that we should be giving teachers high status and we should expect them to have as being able to access the knowledge that is out there in the world otherwise we’re failing the children that networking Thanks I found this really interesting meeting I work as an advisory teacher for autism in Westminster I don’t know how where you are after the teams of at i3 outreach professionals going in to support teachers kind of like a middle layer perhaps so hopefully we are connecting up with research and dissemination good practice down so I just think that seems to be an important and I think most of these teams like our own are expanding in London and there is resourcing being put into them so I think that’s an important part of what we’re trying to do here and the other thing is the autism Education Trust which is a sort of reasonably new initiative which is trying to educate teachers management teachers and and LSAs in in the best practice and the best ways to support so I don’t know do you have any connection with that organization and that sort of things I think that’s another another branch of trying to support and use these yeah recent research and apply it to school so just wondering how much you have had to do with both those areas advisory teachers and then the AET named Janet Jericho’s it could you comment on interconnectivity that joined up to business yeah around the cut the country if you well I think Jamie I absolutely do I mean this I think the the word that advisory teacher to is very important there the work by the Office of Education Trust is all seniors very sort

of the kills that they develop now one of the issues that we kind of expose them is that materials by themselves in my view and I think there’s evidence to show this are quite limited because we’ve had to take in English we look at the history name but if you go back over the last 15 years government has commissioned many many projects which have come up with sets of materials and they’re all out there online you can go to the friend gateway to have a look at them very very little evidence to suggest for any of that has any impact so it is by the work of advisory teachers if by this type of work where we actually bring it to the teachers and make them engage with it so I think that we need to have development around for us so absolutely I agree that adviser to to work is very important and actually that was part of the element we had in the project for the work that we were doing Phoenix school they have actually an outreach service environment so to report although I didn’t talk about it in detail that was lots of things it’ll have to do it’s very quick one is critical observation I’m on the sort of low to medium size I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 28 on 55 now so what so I went through school failed school and didn’t have a very good life until someone realized that it was because I was also had some autistics that my life started to change I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 28 you know it is the fact that people are diagnosed a lot early and they’re being helped thank you maybe I should comment yeah the best ideas all we have time for thank you very much for your questions and the questions at home but also a very big thank you and very interesting to us and Joseph [Applause]