Supporting Pupils with Autistic Spectrum Disorders: A Guide for School Support Staff


Lynn Plimley & Maggie Bowen

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    About the Author

    Lynn Plimley

    Lynn Plimley originally trained to teach children with Special Educational Needs in the mid-70s, and since 1979 has worked with children with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD). She has worked in generic special schools for primary aged children, residential schools for those with SLD and has been part of a multi-disciplinary team supporting inclusion. She was the first Principal of Coddington Court School in Herefordshire, a provision for children aged 8–19 with ASD.

    She works part-time as a Lecturer in ASD at the University of Birmingham on their web-based course ( She also tutors M.Ed dissertation students for the Course in ASD (Distance Learning), and is a member of the internationally respected Autism team, based at the University of Birmingham's School of Education, led by Professor Rita Jordan.

    Lynn also works for Autism Cymru, establishing a mechanism for mainstream Secondary, Primary and Special school teachers, to share good practice. She offers consultancy as a trainer for any kind of provision for people with ASD, and has built up a national profile of training in the importance of understanding the condition of autistic spectrum disorders for schools and care establishments. Lynn is the Book Editor, and an Editorial Board member, of the Good Autism Practice Journal.

    Maggie Bowen

    Maggie gained her academic and professional qualifications at universities in Aberystwyth, Leeds and Bangor. She began her teaching career in a school for children with severe learning difficulties (SLD), and went on to work as a Community Liaison Teacher for individuals with SLD. She has been a Team Inspector of secondary and special schools and a Threshold Assessor, and has worked as part of a multi-agency team responsible for developing a range of new services for individuals of all ages with SLD.

    She was Programme Leader for Special Educational Needs courses and the MA in Education at the North East Wales Institute of Higher Education (NEWI). She has worked for the Welsh Assembly Government as Development Officer for Inclusion in Wales with a specific responsibility for Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Able and Talented and SEN Training in Wales.

    She joined the team at Autism Cymru as Head of Public and Voluntary Sector Partnerships/Deputy CEO in January 2005. She has published on a range of SEN issues in books and journals, and is still committed to training and consultancy work with a range of practitioners from health, social services, education, the criminal justice system and the emergency services.


    Our sincere thanks go to a range of people who have helped us gather evidence for this book, namely all of the support workers we've ever worked with, members of the Autism Cymru Primary and Special Schools’ Fora, colleagues on the Webautism Team (, Robert Hubbard at Priors’ Court School, Jude Bowen and NoMAD.

    How to use this Book

    This book is one in the series entitled ‘The Autistic Spectrum Disorder Support Kit ’. It focuses on the role of the support worker and the child or children with ASD that they support. The book looks at the basics of autistic spectrum disorders and the specific challenges that face the support worker in any school. Autism Cymru host a Forum for teachers and workers in primary secondary and special schools, where they have the opportunity to share best practice but also their concerns about the young people in their care. The content of this book refers to some of the discussions that have taken place at these meetings and has therefore been shaped by the work of experienced practitioners.

    Throughout the book readers are asked to examine issues from the perspective of the individual with ASD rather than adopt a traditional behavioural approach to the situation. Case studies of best practice and strategies suggested are designed to be of practical help to the reader. Readers are also given the opportunity to reflect on their practice and enhance their professional development by using the ‘Reflective Oasis’ sections contained in each chapter.

    Note for Readers

    We have used the universal term ‘support workers’ to describe the workforce who daily operate alongside pupils with special educational needs in mainstream and special school classrooms. This is not meant to demean nor diminish the very important work that they do, but as we explore in Chapter 10, their title has had a long and varied history. Workforce regulations (2003) have created tiered levels of different titles and responsibilities, so we decided to put the nomenclature to the test with 20 special schools’ teachers. The consensus was that there are over seven different job titles that one could use to describe the work. What everyone was in agreement with was the term support worker, which accurately describes most of the day-to-day activities. Therefore for ease of reference we are using the title ‘support worker’ to cover everyone who works in a classroom, on a salary and who is not the class teacher.

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    ABCAntecedents, Behaviour, Consequences
    ASAsperger syndrome
    Austism CymruWales’ national charity for ASD
    BILDBritish Institute of Learning Disabilities
    DfESDepartment for Education and Skills (England)
    DSM IVDiagnostic and Statistical Manual(Edition 4)
    GAPGood Autism Practice -a journal published by the British Institute of Learning Disabilities (BILD)
    HLTAHigher Level Teaching Assistant
    HTLAHigher Teaching and Learning Assistant
    IEPIndividual Education Programme
    ICD 10International Classification of Diseases
    INSETIn-service training
    ITinformation technology
    LEAlocal education authority
    NASNational Autistic Society
    NVQNational Vocational Qualification
    PECSPicture Exchange Communication System
    PPSParent Partnership Services
    PSHEpersonal social and health education
    SALTspeech and language therapist
    School Foradeveloped by Autism Cymru to give teachers working with ASD in primary secondary and special schools across Wales the opportunity to meet and exchange information
    SENspecial educational needs
    SENCospecial educational need coordinator
    SENDAThe Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (2001)
    SLDsevere learning disabilities
    SMTsenior management team
    Social Storiesa strategy developed by Carol Gray to teach individuals with ASD appropriate social skills
    STARSetting Trigger, Action, Results
    SWOTStrengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats
    TAteaching assistant
    TEACCHTreatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication handicapped Children
    Triad of impairmentsdifficulties encountered by individuals with ASD in social understanding, social communication and rigidity of thought noted by Lorna Wing
    TTATeacher Training Agency
    VAKVisual, Auditory, Kinaesthetic
    WAGWelsh Assembly Government

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