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Triple-A In the Classroom

An online learning resource for
teachers, teaching assistants, SENCOs,
and school leaders for supporting autistic and neurodivergent pupils

Funded by

Designed to help you understand the difficulties that impact autistic and neurodivergent pupils in schools

The resource is intended primarily for educational professionals, for example teachers, teaching assistants, SENCOs, and school leaders. It may also be useful for the broader school staff (administrative, lunchtime supervisors, caretakers).

Get started with our training

The resource is free and accessible to anyone who wishes to use it. To access it, you simply need to register. 

He’s got the knowledge, he understands the concepts you know, you can ask him anything and he can tell you anything, he takes a hell of a lot on board, but those three key factors [attention, arousal, anxiety] are what really impacts how well he does with it

Parent of an autistic young person, reflecting on the impact of Triple-A in school

Triple-A

Cartoon depicting the attention aspect of Triple-A, girl sits at a desk, while thought clouds are seen around her with 'noise', 'mess' and 'special interests' in

Attention

Cartoon depicting the arousal aspect of Triple-A, girl in middle of the image with one side of her depicting hypo-arousal, distant responses and the other half of her depicting hyper-arousal, intense reactions

Arousal

Cartoon depicting the anxiety aspect of Triple-A, boy in middle of the image looks worried and has the words 'sensory overload', 'uncertainty', 'unpredictability' and 'interaction' around him

Anxiety

F.A.Qs

The term ‘Triple-A’ represents a set of difficulties commonly experienced by autistic and neurodivergent pupils at school, namely with attention, arousal and anxiety. In this resource, we share research from the Centre for Neurodiversity and Development at Durham University that shows why Triple-A difficulties have an impact at school. We also share practical strategies that can be put in place to support Triple-A needs (developed in collaboration with the Communication and Interaction Team at Durham County Council). 

Yes – this resource is free and accessible to anyone who wishes to use it. While the resource was primarily designed for educational professionals (teachers, teaching assistants, SENCOs and school leaders), it will be relevant to a wide range of people such as broader school staff (e.g. administrative staff, lunchtime supervisors), families who have neurodivergent children, and people who work to support neurodiverse groups. 

We estimate that it will take approximately 1.5 to 2 hours to complete this resource. You do not have to complete it in one go, you can do it at your own pace, and you can return to complete sections of the resource when it suits you. You will receive a certificate of completion once you have finished. 

The aim of this resource is to raise awareness and understanding among educational professionals of Triple-A issues at school for autistic and neurodivergent pupils. It will benefit educational professionals by providing up-to-date research and training on these issues. Most importantly, the ultimate aim of this resource is to benefit autistic and neurodivergent pupils at school who require understanding and support with Triple-A issues. 

In this resource, we will be using predominantly identity-first language, as this reflects the broad preference of the autism community. However, as there is no overall consensus around identity-first/person-first language usage in the autism community (Kenny et al., 2016), we will sometimes vary the language we use to reflect this. To reflect other language preferences from the autism community, we will not use ‘autism spectrum disorder’, but other terms; such as autistic and autism spectrum condition (ASC).

Please see here for further reading on this issue:

Kenny, L., Hattersley, C., Molins, B., Buckley, C., Povey, C. & Pellicano, E. (2016). Which terms should be used to describe autism? Perspectives from the UK autism community. Autism20(4), 442-462. Doi: 10.1177/1362361315588200

 

The approach behind this training tool is underpinned by the neurodiversity paradigm. The concept of neurodiversity reflects the fact that all of our brains work differently, and as such, we all think and behave differently.  Neurodivergence refers to differences (e.g. in thinking and behaviour) that diverge from what is ‘neurotypical’. For example, people who are autistic or who have ADHD, could be considered as being neurodivergent. Sometimes neurodivergent people can experience challenges in some situations. In this training tool, we look at the issues that can arise for autistic and neurodivergent pupils at school, because the school environment can provide lots of  challenges for neurodivergent pupils. 

 

For academic reading on neurodiversity, see here:  Pellicano, E., & den Houting, J. (2021). Annual Research Review: Shifting from ‘normal science’ to neurodiversity in autism science. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

 

For an accessible talk on neurodiversity and school, see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iUHHmHftQs

Jayne Sayers

Advisory team member

Jayne is the parent of an autistic 8 yr old son, and has 22 years experience in the NHS as a nuclear medicine technologist, working with patients of all ages and capabilities.

Mollie Preece

Advisory team member

In her own words, Mollie describes herself as “12 years old and I’m different in a good way. Change is difficult but with the right support I can manage it. If I feel people understand me, I can work well with them and not shut down. A loud noisy environment is just not helpful. It really helps me to learn when I have a calm and productive environment in the classroom.”

Marie Preece

Advisory team member

Marie is the parent of an autistic daughter and was diagnosed as autistic herself at the age of 45. She runs a successful business and in her spare time she is involved in various projects which aim to bring awareness and understanding of the challenges of autism in girls and women.

Sharon Minikin

Advisory team member

Sharon has taught children with Autism for 18 years and is currently SENDCO and Provision Manager of a Local Authority commissioned Resource Base for children with social communication needs.

Prof Sue Leekam

Advisory team member

Sue is an Emeritus Professor in psychology at Cardiff University and holds a Leverhulme Trust Emeritus Fellowship. She is an expert in neurodevelopment and especially in the areas of attention, anxiety, sensory and social differences.She is also passionate about building strong research-community relations in areas of health and education. She serves on the NHS Wales Steering Committee for Neurodevelopmental Service Improvement, and was also an advisor to the Welsh Government’s Autism Strategy.  She has been invovled in the development of training tools to improve public and professional understanding of autism [See here for free training film for front line professions on the signs of autism: see https://autismwales.org/en/community-services/i-work-with-children-in-health-social-care/the-birthday-party/ ]

Charlie Hookway

Advisory team member

Charlie was diagnosed with autism in year 4 and he is now in his final couple of weeks of A levels. He loves photography and is due to start a degree at university in September

Amanda Hookway

Advisory team member

Amanda is a mum to 3 boys. Her eldest son is on the autistic spectrum. She has worked in schools supporting students who have additional needs and learning difficulties for many years. 

Emily @21andsensory

Advisory team member

Emily has Sensory Processing Disorder (diagnosed aged 8) and is Autistic (diagnosed aged 25). She is an Illustrator, Graphic Designer and Podcaster. She enjoys discussing and drawing about her life as a sensory-being across social media at @21andsensory. Emily hosts and runs the 21andsensory Podcast where she chats to neurodiverse people from all walks of life

Helen Sellars

Advisory Teacher, Commuication & Interactin Team

Helen is an Advisory Inclusion Teacher from the Communication and Interaction Team which is part of Specialist Inclusion Services at Durham County Council. Prior to working in SEND and Inclusion, Helen was an Assistant Head Teacher and SENDCo.

Elizabeth Mulholland

Team Leader, Communication & Interaction Team

Liz is the Team Leader for the Communication and Interaction Team which is part of the SEND and Inclusion Service at Durham County Council. Prior to this Liz worked as an Advisory Inclusion Teacher within the same service having spent several years previously as a senior leader and SENDCo in a primary school.

Dr Janet Crawford

Principal Educational Psychologist

Janet is the Strategic Manager for Specialist Inclusion Support and Principal Educational Psychologist in Durham with a long standing interest in autism and neurodiversity. Janet is the current Chair of County Durham Think Autism Strategy Steering group

Rosie Johnson

Research Assistant

Rosie is a Research Assistant on this Triple-A project. Prior to this Rosie has worked as an Assistant Psychologist, including previously working in CAMHS with children and young people who are neurodivergent.

Dr Liz Jones

Project Collaborator

Liz is a mixed-method researcher with an interest in understanding the experiences of children and young people with sensory differences at school. During her PhD she explored the impact of sensory processing differences on learning and school life for autistic pupils.

Dr Emily McDougal

Project Collaborator

Emily is a researcher with an interest in understanding neurodivergent children in the context of the primary school classroom. During her PhD, she investigated the role of attention in learning for autistic pupils.

Jessica Hirst

Lead Research Assistant

Jess is the lead research assistant on this Triple-A project, having worked on it from the beginning. Indeed, some of the research Jess completed for her Masters in Developmental Psychopathology has contributed to the evidence for this training. Jess is really interested in understanding and supporting engagement and learning at school for autistic and neurodivergent pupils, and having now begun a PhD, she is focusing on developing a holistic model for learning and engagement at school for autistic and neurodivegent pupils.