About

About this resource

This ‘Triple A’ resource is designed to raise awareness and understanding of a set of difficulties that impact many children in our schools – difficulties with Attention, Arousal and Anxiety.

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, canteen, caretakers). We hope the resource will be helpful for thinking about primary and secondary school children.

We think this resource will also be useful for parents and families who wish to understand these issues better for their children. Ultimately, we hope that this resource will have the effect of helping to break down barriers to learning and engagement at school for autistic and neurodivergent pupils.

Everyone who does this training will receive a certificate of completion at the end. You will also have the opportunity to download a ‘Triple-A Toolbox’ – a tailored set of support strategies that you would find useful in supporting Triple-A needs.

Who we are

Click on the profile pictures to view biographies.

Centre for Neurodiversity & Development Team

Dr Mary Hanley

Project Lead

Prof Deborah Riby

Project Co-Lead

Jessica Hirst

Lead Research Assistant

Dr Emily McDougal

Project Collaborator

Rosie Johnson

Research Assistant

Communication & Interaction Team Collaborators,
Durham County Council

Dr Janet Crawford

Principal Education Psychologist

Elizabeth Mulholland

Team Leader, Communication & Interaction Team

Helen Sellars

Communication & Interaction Team

Advisory Board

Emily @21andsensory

Advisory team member

Amanda Hookway

Advisory team member

Charlie Hookway

Advisory team member

Prof Sue Leekam

Advisory team member

Sharon Minikin

Advisory team member

Marie Preece

Advisory team member

Mollie Preece

Advisory team member

Jayne Sayers

Advisory team member

Acknowledgements

We are extremely grateful to the autistic children and young people, parents and teachers, who have taken part in our research and the development work for this training tool. Without their participation and contributions, this simply would not have been possible.  We hope that this tool benefits autistic and neurodivergent children and young people in schools by raising awareness and understanding of Triple-A issues. 

We would also like to acknowledge and thank the following people:

We are grateful to the ESRC IAA and Research England for funding this impact project, enabling us to translate our research in order to support autistic and neurodivergent pupils at school.

We are grateful for the expertise, guidance and input from our fantastic collaborative partners in this Triple-A work – the Communication and Interaction Team from Durham County Council, especially Dr Janet Crawford, Ms Liz Mulholland and Ms Helen Sellars.

We are grateful to the collaborative partners and funders that supported the research that underpins the Triple-A training, including the North East Autism Society, The Croft School, and the North East Doctoral Training Centre (NEDTC, now the Northern Ireland and North East Doctoral Training Partnership).

We are especially grateful to our wonderful advisory group (listed above) who have provided their expert advice, guidance and lived experience in order to share this training tool to what it is now.

We are very grateful to Ella Willis (Newcastle based autistic illustrator and online content creator; ellawillis2000@gmail.com ) for her wonderful illustrations to convey Triple-A issues. 

Thank you to our wonderful technical team in the Department of Psychology for your help in producing videos for this tool, especially Simon Thurlbeck, Elaine Stanton and Sarah Stansfield. 

We acknowledge the wonderful research led by Dr Liz Jones (done as part of her PhD, working with Mary and Debbie) that has contributed to this training tool.

We acknowledge the use of images from Flaticon, specially those contributed by Freepik – what a useful resource. 

We acknowledge the wonderful work of the Prism team (Premature Infant Skills in Mathematics) in supporting prematurely born children in the classroom. Their online tool offered inspiration to us for how we could translate our research to practice using an online medium.

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

Dr Mary Hanley

Project Lead

Mary is one of the co-directors for the Centre for Neurodiversity and Development at Durham University, and the lead for this project on Triple-A. As an associate professor of developmental psychology, her research is focussed on strengths and difficulties experienced by people who are neurodivergent, especially autistic people and people with Williams syndrome. She is particularly interested attention, arousal and anxiety and how these can present challenges at school. In her work, Mary strives to make impact with her work with those for whom it is most relevant.

Prof Deborah Riby

Project Co-Lead

Deborah is one of the co-directors for the Centre for Neurodiversity and Development at Durham University, and the co-lead for this project on Triple-A. As a professor of developmental psychology her research is focused on neurodevelopmental conditions and neurodiversity, with a specific focus on social interactions, social communication, and everyday social functioning. Deborah’s work is largely focused on autism and Williams Syndrome and on understanding the whole child, pulling together issues such as anxiety, attention, and arousal covered in the Triple A project. More widely, Deborah is Chair of the Developmental Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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

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.”

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

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. 

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

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/ ]

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.

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.

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.