PINE Class is for pupils who require a fully personalised curriculum due to additional anxieties caused by demand avoidant autism.
Demand avoidant autism is a complex, challenging and misunderstood condition, often ignored or not recognized by many professionals. It is characterised by extreme avoidance of everyday demands, lability of mood, impulsive behaviour led by a need to control and debilitating anxiety, which can feel like a panic attack. Traditional management techniques such as structure, routine and rewards that can work for pupils with other autism profiles are generally ineffective.
These pupils often find it difficult to follow requests even if it is something they actually enjoy. They may use the following tactics to avoid demands; delaying – charming, giving excuses, distracting or changing the topic of conversation, negotiating or needing to have the last word, panic-driven meltdowns or withdrawing into a fantasy world. They may become easily engrossed in their fantasy to the extent they ‘become’ certain characters, but confuse ‘pretending’ with ‘reality’. These are considered the children’s coping mechanism; their method of putting up a barrier designed to avoid demands.
At school these children often struggle to reach their potential because of their need to be in control. The invisible barrier of anxiety and avoidance is often forgotten and the child appears to be choosing not to engage when in fact they don’t know how to overcome these feelings on their own, hence needing a different set of strategies to support them.
At Link Primary School, we link hands together in offering these pupils a personalised bespoke package of educational and behavioural support. We facilitate a child-led learning environment, which nurtures their unique talents and strong interests, but still leaves them feeling they are in control. These include:
- Thinking ahead – Identifying the predictable triggers would mean strategies are planned in advance. It is important to develop a strong relationship with a child who has high anxiety
- Monitoring the child’s stress levels & scaling back demands – It is important to look out for signs of increased anxiety, which can be reduced by decreasing demands.
- Creating space – It is even harder for these children to regulate their feelings. We make sure there’s space in the classroom or school where they can go, to feel calm.
- Using the child’s interests to depersonalise demands.
- Giving the child choices – This gives children a sense of having some control, while ensuring that you keep the key requirement firm.
- Using humour – If you feel the tension rising, humour is a fantastic distraction.
- Using distraction – Distraction can be a handy way to temporarily press ‘pause’ and ease the child’s anxiety.
- Building the curriculum around special interests.