A former Edge Hill University student has donated copies of her books to support future teachers in their understanding of children and young adults with Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC).
Lynn McCann, a BEd (Honours) Primary Specialist, has specialised in SEN (Special Educational Needs) since graduating in 1990 and has taught in mainstream and specialist schools including Seven Stars Primary in Leyland and Hillside Specialist School in Preston, as well as lecturing in Childhood Studies at Preston College.
Her experiences and knowledge have led to the publication of three books developed with LDA Learning, focusing on Primary and Secondary School children with ASC, as well as the idea behind ‘Social Stories’.
“It was working with children with autism at Seven Stars that re-sparked my interest in working in a special school. One of the first I went to was Hillside and I immediately knew I was in the right place.
“Hillside put me through my autism qualification and trained us in different strategies. I loved going to mainstream schools to share the good practice and expertise of which I knew there was a huge need.”
Five years ago, Lynn took the decision to leave her role to set up Reachout ASC, to allow her greater flexibility in helping other organisations as well as schools, and to write more extensively on the subject.
Her first book, ‘How to Support Pupils with Autism Spectrum Condition in Primary School‘, was released in 2016.
“There are many books about autism but not many for mainstream classroom teachers. I knew they valued practical advice, so I wanted it to be a handbook they could pick up, and either read from cover to cover or dip in and out of.
“I talked to teachers and they helped me form the structure, covering early years to key stage 2 and the transition to secondary school. I did a lot of research and used practical examples of things we knew helped the children we had been supporting.
“Children have taught me so much, so I tried to make sure that anyone reading it would understand from the child’s point of view. The feedback has been very good, and the book has sold well.”
The follow-up, ‘How to Support Children with Autism Spectrum Condition in Secondary School’ addressed issues more in keeping with the transition into adolescence and adulthood.
“I concentrated on key common areas such as accessing lessons, organisation, homework, independence, social interactions, puberty, sensory issues and post-year 11,” she said.
“I am really proud of the contribution my students made and have included some of their quotes so that teachers can understand how hard they try and how difficult school can be for them. Having the right support that helps their independence and self-development is crucial.”
‘Stories that explain: Social stories for children with autism in primary school’ came out last year, using the format of Carol Gray – who invented the concept – and its personalised approach to help children with ASC understand the wider world.
“I started writing social stories after having training and when I began to visit other schools in my outreach work, they became a useful resource.
“I have always checked them for accuracy and structure. I always ask myself if a social story is needed or another approach first, then work with the child to work out what we really need the story to be about. It has to be based on their perspective of a situation.
“The key point is to explain something, to help them understand it better in a way that makes sense to them. Then if they need to react differently they are given advice and options rather than absolutes. I had hundreds of stories and realised many were covering common themes.
“I’ve written stories about going on trips, daily school events and understanding what happens at a funeral. They can cover anything… if written correctly. I run courses helping people learn how to write them but asked my publisher if they thought a book of some of the ones I had written would be useful.
“We put together over 60 that are editable on the CD that comes with the book. It explains how to personalise and illustrate them and how to adapt for different abilities. I hope people find it really useful.”
In terms of future projects Lynn remains busy, keen to continue to support teachers. She has contributed a chapter in a book about educating girls on the autistic spectrum, which is released this summer, as well as a board game for LDA.
“It is called The Waiting Game which I invented for a child I was working with. He loved it and started to understand that he needed to wait for some things. It was so successful that his mum used the strategy at home.
“I’ve used it with many children. We added silly monsters and four types of scenario cards. The artist did a great job of illustrating the board and children didn’t want to stop playing it.
“Most teachers realise that teaching autistic children can mean a very different approach and are crying out for training, ideas and resources they can use in their classrooms. My writing is an extension of trying to get the message out there.”