Championing Your Autistic Teen at Secondary School – Book Review

Book Review of
“Championing Your Autistic Teen at Secondary School: Getting the Best from Mainstream Settings”
By Debby Elley and Gareth D. Morewood
Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

I was delighted to receive a copy of this book in the post today to review for the Axia audience. I read it as an educator; someone who works with young people and their families preparing for the next important transition in their lives. The authors of the book are Debby Alley, the co-founder of AuKids magazine, author and mother of two autistic sons, and Gareth D. Morewood, an Educational Advisor for Studio lll, and an experienced SENCo in a large secondary school. Debby’s son Bobby is an important contributor to the dialogue, and the pupil voice is heard throughout. The foreword is written by Dr Peter Vermeulen, and he describes the text as providing an ‘air of optimism, practical common sense and above all a belief that successful inclusion of autistic children can be achieved’.

The transition to secondary school can be a unnerving time for parents, as well as the young people themselves. Primary school is a known space and soon it will be time to move to a new mainstream setting. How do you know which is the right school? What if staff don’t really understand your child’s needs? Will your child cope – and if not, then what happens?

The book provides encouragement and tools that show parents or carers they have the ability as to address these concerns, and effect positive changes in their young person’s life. It is also written with a great deal of wit and verve, which helps makes it very accessible. It straddles the years from Year 5 onwards into secondary school life, breaking down the steps into more manageable, signposted chunks. From providing a framework to select the right school for your child (and spotting those that are less favourable), to preparing both your child and the new school for the transition, to overcoming barriers and building a positive, collaborative and effective relationship between home and school. I really liked the way the authors explored key topics from the point of view of both parent and teacher, and provided positive examples of things working well. Charts, tick lists and suggestions for how to interact with school staff, help deliver practical, down to earth support for families. The book provides no quick fixes but the foundation for building a more positive secondary school experience for your child.

The book concludes with a thoughtful blueprint of the future, the autism friendly school. Here SEND is not an addition, but part of policy and practise at every stage. The indexes provide helpful practical charts and there are useful references to guide deeper reading and exploration.

Tracy Henney
Associate Teacher

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