Following the TTS Talking: Neurodivergence in Education webinar, we received lots of great questions and requests for additional content and resources. Our panel of experts, Beccie Hawes, Annamarie Hassall MBE, Andrew Whitehouse, and Professor David Daley have provided answers to the questions asked by our live viewers. Throughout this article, we have also included links to further inspirational content and useful resources related to the themes discussed during the webinar.
Your questions, answered by experts:
Question: I am interested in understanding; how schools retrospectively modify environments when there are limited budgets. What are key things/absolute must haves?
Beccie’s Answer: This is a very common question because we just don’t have the money to work on a big scale. The answer is to think small and practical. For many children, this is about creating their own small safe space within the bigger classroom environment. This would consist of things that children can access at their own tables whilst learning. Here are five things I would recommend:
- A pop-up privacy board such as the TTS Desk Privacy Partition resource.
- Items that can be used to facilitate a sensory diet such as weighted resources, ear defenders, and a range of fidget resources.
- Built-in opportunities to move such as the TTS Fidgety Feet.
- Think about making a low arousal space and auditing your displays. Are they very busy and perhaps too stimulating? Can you access the information on them easily?
- A pop-up sensory space/dark den.
Question: What advice does the panel have for Early Years practitioners who might be the first professionals to acknowledge the Neurodivergent child?
David’s Answer: My advice would be not to get too worried about labels such as ADHD or Autism. Work at an observable level, a preschool child who struggles to pay attention, or one who can’t make eye contact or establish a friendship circle. Secondly, implement early intervention to address the difficulties you can observe in the child. There is very little evidence of any adverse events associated with implementing behavioural strategies, so you can use them on children you suspect may be at risk of ADHD or Autism.
Beccie’s Answer: I always take my lead from the family and consider where they are in their personal journey to acceptance. To begin with, it is sometimes more helpful (and less threatening) to focus upon the child’s needs rather than the ‘name’ for it. Focus on the support you can provide in partnership with the family to address the child’s needs. Build this up over time so that they don’t become overwhelmed.
Question: What advice does Beccie have for a new to-post deputy SENCO in a mainstream secondary? I hear so often “primary didn’t do anything” which we know is not the case but how can we best support that family before it comes “too late”?
Beccie’s Answer: I feel that this is about an honest discussion that focuses upon where we are right now and where do we want to go. This will help you to find a common future focused goal that you can work on in partnership together. To achieve this and help the family to move forwards I use person-centred approaches. This could be done by constructing a one-page profile that explores:
- What do we like and admire about the child?
- What is important to them and for them?
- What is working well?
- What is not working well?
- What are aspirations?
This could be done as a transition activity so that you have all the information as they enter year seven. You can then jointly problem solve the ‘not working well’ aspect in collaboration. There is more information about person centred approaches available at:
Many families who go through this approach feel that they have truly been heard.
Question: Please can you elaborate on sensory feedback activities; what might these look like?
David’s answer: What I meant by sensory feedback activities are anything that allows children to meet their diverse sensory needs. Often neurodivergent children have very explicit sensory needs, and to meet those needs we need to make sure that children have access to opportunities that meet their sensory needs. For some that just means having fluffy cushions in the classroom for them to stroke, for others it means having the right kind of play equipment in the playground so that children can meet vestibular needs.
Question: How do I listen to/access the webinar on-demand?
Answer: The full on-demand version of the webinar is now available to watch via the TTS World of Education Content Hub! Click here or tap the video below to watch the full recording and hear our global panel of experts share their insights.
Question: Is there any form of certificate/proof of attendance?
Answer: Yes, a certificate of attendance has been distributed to all webinar attendees, please check your email and junk folders (this will have been sent to the email that you registered for the webinar with).
Question: What suggestions does the panel have to support challenging behaviours at pre-school phase?
David’s answer: If you haven’t already done so, make sure the rules are very visible, and put them up on a big poster somewhere visible. Make constant reference to the room rules and praise those children who are struggling to follow them, when they do follow the rules. Make sure all the adults are also following the rules and modelling how to follow the rules, also praise the staff for following the rules! For children who struggle to label emotions and feeling, start by sharing your own feelings with them or the group. You can do this in a very simple way for preschool children. For example, I feel very happy today because the sun is shining, or I feel a bit sad today because I just found a big hole in my favourite snuggly jumper.
We also have a #TTSTALKING highlight on our Instagram (@tts_resources) that has more information about our Neurodivergence in Education webinar and contributors.