An alliance of schools and researchers formed a collaborative community of practice in order to understand and improve the sensory school environment for pupils on the autistic spectrum, and incorporate the findings into school improvement planning. The paper aims to discuss this issue.
Representatives of special and mainstream schools in South London and a team of researchers formed the project team, including an autistic researcher. The researchers and a named staff member from each of the schools met regularly over the course of 18 months in order to work on an iterative process to improve the sensory experience pupils had of the school environment. Each school completed sensory audits and observations, and was visited by members of the research team. Parents were involved via meetings with the research team and two conferences were organised to share findings.
Useful outcomes included: developing and sharing of good practice between schools; opportunities for parents of autistic pupils to discuss their concerns, particularly with someone with insider perspective; and exploration of creative ways to achieve pupil involvement and the idea that good autism practice has the potential to benefit all pupils. A resource pack was produced for the schools to access. Plans are in place to revisit the initiative in 12 months’ time in order to ascertain whether there have been long-term benefits.
Projects building communities of practice involving autistic people as core team members are rare, yet feedback from those involved in the project showed this to be a key aspect of shared learning.
The Alliance funded the research.
Martin, N., Milton, D.E.M., Krupa, J., Brett, S., Bulman, K., Callow, D., Copeland, F., Cunningham, L., Ellis, W., Harvey, T., Moranska, M., Roach, R. and Wilmot, S. (2019), "The sensory school: working with teachers, parents and pupils to create good sensory conditions", Advances in Autism, Vol. 5 No. 2, pp. 131-140. https://doi.org/10.1108/AIA-09-2018-0034
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