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Learning in Care

David, like many autistic children, can experience a lot of stress and anxiety. Everyday variations in the environment like doors and windows being open, transitioning between environments and making choices can contribute to this.

A wellbeing approach in our school involves looking at reducing stress that might be present in our practitioners as well our pupils and at the causes and possible solutions. As with any pupil, it takes time for staff to become familiar and understand them. We could see that as David became stressed, the team around him naturally also became stressed. To overcome this staff were encouraged to be more aware of their own stress and take the time to talk with other staff members. By sharing worries and concerns and discussing solutions, the stress levels of our practitioners were reduced, having a hugely positive impact on David.

Another area in which David experienced anxiety was around making choices. By simply taking away the verbal instruction and instead using hand gestures to indicate choice to David, we have been able to reduce his anxiety in this area. An additional consideration in the plan was around keeping fit and healthy. Giving David time to burn off excess energy by incorporating regular exercise and time to use the trampoline in the garden helps him to focus and feel calmer when learning.

Currently, David often stays at the residences and does his school work there. The busy and unpredictable school environment is overwhelming for David, so rather than him coming to school we take his learning to him where he feels comfortable. As New Struan has the capacity to offer a 24 hour model of support and learning, we can be flexible with pupils, giving them the option to learn in their own time and space. David doesn’t need to be sat down at a desk for 9am every morning, for him at the moment that would be detrimental to his learning. At New Struan, our teachers need to think creatively about how they will engage the young people in their learning in an interesting and motivating way.

As David progressed through adolescence, some of his stress and anxiety heightened as might be expected with the changes that come at this stage in development. Recognising this and to ensure more consistency across the different aspects of David’s life, he moved from being a day pupil to a residential pupil with respite during school holidays. We have seen many positive changes in David since this transition occurred.

A key thing for David is to ensure he has some control of his environment. By giving him the freedom to learn where he feels most comfortable and by not placing too much demand on him, David is more confident and able to focus better. Recently, he worked with staff on his review, which is something he previously would have been stressed about. Speaking about the progress that David has made since coming to New Struan, his dad said, ‘I feel like all my dreams have come true’. 


To find out more about New Struan Day and Residential School, or to arrange a visit, please contact Lee-Anne McAulay, Head Teacher, by emailing LeeAnne.McAulay@scottishautism.org, or call 01259 222 000.
Speaking about the progress that David has made since coming to New Struan, his dad said, ‘I feel like all my dreams have come true’.