Brookways supports young people with an autism spectrum condition and the team have experience of working positively with children who may experience a range of challenges.
One of these challenges experienced by pupils is Pathological Demand Avoidance. A young person who experiences PDA will not always respond to the other interventions and support which other children with an ASC may benefit from. They may experience significant anxiety if they feel they are not in control of their situation.
Archie is a young person who experiences PDA. He was supported in a mainstream primary school, but often in isolation with only a teaching assistant with him in a classroom. He did not go to assembly with his peers and didn’t play with the other children. His classroom environment was regularly changed, but he remained alone.
The school found it increasingly difficult to meet his needs and his behaviour deteriorated to pinching, spitting and kicking as a result of the increasing anxiety.
The team at Brookways were very honest with Archie’s family about the challenge ahead, telling them it would be a slow process to have him engage with school and learning again. Headteacher Melanie Whitfield anticipated it would take up to two terms to have Archie attend full-time.
Archie began on a reduced timetable and, at first, the team supported him at a desk in the front area of the school, with a play-based curriculum. This helped him acclimatise and get used to his surroundings. Gradually other elements were added to Archie’s timetable.
His teaching and support staff introduced the maths or literacy elements to Archie in a measured way with plenty of notice so he could be fully prepared for the changes. His workspace was also gradually moved into the main hall where he could become used to the sights, sounds and smells of the school.
Before any changes were made to his day, Archie would be reminded every day so he knew exactly what to expect and could be in control.
After less than two terms, when he returned on the first day of term, Archie asked to be taught in a classroom along with other young people. He is playing with his peers and the team have no doubt that he will work towards GCSEs.
Archie had never eaten with other young people or run about in a busy playground. He does those things every day at Brookways and is thriving. Recently when he was feeling unwell he said: “I don’t want to miss school!”
*Note: Name changed to protect the anonymity of the young person