Raising awareness of Autism

“One of our young people has just passed their driving test and is driving themselves to school. Now lot’s of our young people want us to help them learn to drive! We’re just a school and don’t have capacity to help them with this. Could you help us please?”

This was our very first conversation with the leader of a school that had just joined the YouTeachMe community. The school was a community special school for learners with communication and interaction needs.

We talked about the ways that young people could be helped to achieve their goal of learning to drive. We could see ways that using asynchronous (pre-recorded video) could really help. It wouldn’t be with the mechanics of driving of course, that would up to a qualified instructor. Instead, we felt that we could help with the hidden challenges that many people, especially autistic people, face; how to confidently manage unfamiliar and unexpected situations?

Learning to drive is a right of passage for many young people, as is learning to travel alone on public transport, interacting with strangers or going shopping independently. In these unfamiliar situations, ASD massively increases the difficulty.

I’m not an expert in ASD, however, I understand what it feels like to be unsure of myself in a new situation. It’s this fear of the unknown, and the lack of confidence in dealing with it, that can prevent young people reaching independence.

Fear of the situation leads to a physical fight/flight response that prevents learning – so, to learn you have to be placed into a situation that prevents learning.

This is clearly a massive problem. So how do you help someone experience a new situation in a way that helps them to learn at the same time?

Step forward asynchronous video! 

We got in our car and went out filming. We made loads of short videos showing situations and asking a question about each one:

❓ I’m lost. What should I do?

❓ My passengers are messing around. What should I say to them?

❓ I’m stuck in a traffic jam and I’m worrying about being late. What should I do?

❓ I’m driving on the motorway and I think I’m going to be sick. What should I do?

We uploaded them into YouTeachMe, where the staff in the school accessed them during an after-school car club for young people interested in learning to drive. They watched the videos we had made (as many times as needed), talked about the situation and possible answers to the question posed. They then role-played the situation, guided by the staff. This enabled them to understand the situation, learn the best way to respond and practise managing it.

The feedback from the staff about the impact on the young people was amazing!  

When you think about it, this is a tremendously powerful learning model for all young people; experience something real, in a safe place, with adults they trust, at a time that’s good for them!

The fears and challenges facing autistic learners are much the same as those faced by every young person, it’s just that they might be faced at an older age.

Unpicking these challenges enables us to create a more understanding and inclusive world.

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