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This is a thread about #autistic children and ONE of the reasons why school can be difficult/stressful.

It’s a thing that NTs find hard to understand, and I’ve struggled to explain it to Fairy’s teachers in the past, but it’s SO important.

#EduTwitter #SEN #teaching 1/
This thread is about... 🥁🥁

The need to explain things clearly.

Teachers: I absolutely acknowledge that you are trying your best to be clear with your students. Only, please don’t underestimate quite how *specific* you need to be with your autistic pupils. 2/
I have Fairy’s permission to talk you through an example of something that happened yesterday, in the hope that it will help some teachers to understand why she, and children like her, can find things difficult at school. 3/
Yesterday, F was in a ‘creative’ class. The teacher showed them this painting, and posed the question “How does this painting make you feel?” 4/ An image of ‘The Carnival of Harlequin’ painting by Miro
Most of the (Year 8) class said things like:

“It’s weird”
“There’s lots of stuff going on”
“It’s strange”

The teacher acknowledged these as perfectly acceptable answers, and I’m sure they are.

HOWEVER they are not actually answers to the question that was asked. 5/
The other children instinctively understood that if they found it difficult to answer a question about how the painting made them *feel*, it would be an acceptable substitute to answer the question “what does it make you *think* of”.

F did NOT instinctively understand this. 6/
Fairy, bless her, was still trying to work out why an image of a slightly odd painting on a computer screen should make her feel something.

(“I don’t feel anything. It’s just a painting.)

You might as well ask her how this teaspoon makes her feel. 🥄 7/
Fairy is now incredibly anxious, because:

1. She can’t answer the question the teacher has asked.
2. Other children are answering the question ‘wrong’ and the teacher is acting as if they’ve answered right.
3. F cannot for the life of her work out why this is. 8/
So now, not only does F feel inadequate for not being able to answer the question, she feels like the only person in the room who can see that the other children HAVE LITERALLY NOT EVEN ANSWERED THE QUESTION RIGHT SO WHY IS THE TEACHER ACTING LIKE THEY HAVE?!?! 🤯🤯 9/
This can happen multiple times per lesson, let alone per day. Fairy, and other #autistic children like her, often feels like everyone else has this secret language that they communicate in, that uses the same words as English but means something completely different. 10/
For Fairy, the best way of putting this question would be something like:

“Give me some adjectives to describe this painting”

If you want more depth, follow up with something like “What has the artist done in the painting that has made us think of those words?” 11/
(Side note: don’t ask #autistic children questions like “What was the artist feeling when they painted that?” Or “Why did the artist choose to do it this way?” because in Fairy’s mind, unless you have asked them how can you possibly know? (I mean, she’s not wrong.)) 12/
Fairy wants to do her best at school. She loves learning, she likes her teachers, and she is motivated to do her best work, for herself and for them.

But when the teacher is saying something as if it’s the simplest thing, and it’s melting her brain, that’s hard to take. 13/
Fairy’s teachers don’t understand why she’s so anxious (she’s a very bright and capable student) but Fairy is constantly worried that she’s going to misunderstand what a teacher had meant, and do the work all wrong. (Which to her is a disaster of epic proportion.) 14/
F is also - and this is key I think - completely baffled as to WHY she can’t understand what the teachers mean, because she knows she’s ‘clever’, right? She’s perfectly capable of doing the work. 15/
But being capable of doing the work is essentially meaningless if you haven’t understood the point of the task. And when you repeatedly don’t understand, and the teachers brush you off because they know you’re clever and you ‘should’ already know what to do... 16/
I mean... the mental and emotional load of all of this on #autistic children is just huge.

(I should also say, this happens to adults too, and is one of the main reasons I find it so stressful working for other people.) 17/
Incidentally, there was also a follow up episode after this one was sorted, but it’s on a slightly different (though related) topic so I might stick that in a new thread. 18/
So, to wrap this up: teachers, please think about how you’re phrasing questions. Are you really asking the question you mean to ask? Will your painfully literal #autistic child understand what you mean?

Thanks for reading 😊 #ActuallyAutistic #NotFineInSchool end/
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