STSD MEETS NAS (South Bucks Branch)

In September my family visited The National History Museum, London. We had visited before, of course, but this trip was different and organised by the NAS (National Autistic Society) South Bucks – lead by Kelly Ostler Coyle.

The event was ‘life-changing’ (no this is not being over-dramatic) and eventually lead to the contacting of my fellow regional STSD members. First, though a bit of context:

In Spring of this year – after two and half years of much heavy-weight pushing on our part and positive support from his Junior school – my eldest son was given a non-specific diagnosis of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) The SENDco at his school put us in touch with NAS South Bucks and this trip was an ‘early doors’ one. The museum opened exclusively for our coach party at 8am and we had 2 hours of tranquillity to explore the museum until the general public arrived at 10am. (Gosh – you could feel the difference instantly caused by this additional and overwhelming presence) Such peace and openness is essential for a person with Autism to cope in a situation. They will require longer processing time and any sensory interruptions will disrupt this and build over time until a meltdown or shutdown will occur. This is merely ‘the tip of the ice-berg’ (another behavioural analysis with in autism condition). The experience – along with other events since – is great for the whole family. After chatting with Kelly on the coach journey – I found myself on the committee!

As a Speech and Drama teacher and with a child with SEND (Special Education Needs and Disabilities) I have become increasingly interested in the effect our subject and moreover how we teach it, has on an individual. That is probably one the key factors – our tuition can be tailor-made to fit the pupil and provide accessibility at an unpressurised level. One of the current drives of NAS is putting in place is a Youth Club for teenagers in our South Bucks area. There is nothing for this age group and yet, ironically, the common suggestion from OT, SALT, Psych Ed is ‘socialisation will improve this’. I would like to say at this point 2019 was the 10th anniversary of the Autism Act and very little has changed for people with this condition.

On Thursday 7th November I hosted an STSD Bucks gathering and invited Kelly along to discuss how Speech and Drama could meet the needs of these children and young people. The response was gratifying – 8 of us sat and conversed with enthusiasm about this topic. The evening also provided the opportunity for us to meet one of our newest members: Elizabeth Went and to introduce ourselves to an ex-college who is considering joining. Our diversity in teaching experiences offered individual suggestions and ideas (personal and professional) and we were all thrilled by the experience. A few of us our very keen to link in some kind of drama experience for these young people in our South Bucks area and further discussion will occur. The idea that Kelly should come and speak at some point to the STSD was met with enthusiasm.

Katie Thorpe – Buckinghamshire regional representative.

November article – STSD meets NAS (National Autistic Society)