Autism: Ideas/Strategies that may Support Inclusion by Simon and Kim Smith

About Simon

Simon delivers presentations regularly all around the city of Brighton and Hove, which he calls ‘Being Autistic’ - which is about his personal experiences of what it is like having Autism and how it affects his everyday life. His presentation covers many areas including sensory issues, how his brain works, social communication, interaction and obsessions. He also offers general advice and strategies to help support those with Autism and the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the session.

An illustration of the Autistic and Neurotypical brain by Simon

Simon’s insights have helped improve local services within Brighton and Hove, as well as benefiting relationships between parents and children. As one local professional put it: “I learnt more about autism in an hour (from Simon) than 20 years as a teacher”.

In October 2011 Simon was recognised by Dimensions (learning disability support organisation) for promoting the understanding of Autism and he won the 'individuals' category of the Erica Award.

Simon’s talks came about when his mum who was working with pre-school children with autism one day asked him for some advice on how to support a child. Simon said it made him think back to when he was a child of the same age. He looked back on what made things hard for him and told his mum what it was like from his perceptive. He spoke about what it was like for him being autistic and how it affected his everyday life.

He says

“My mum said she learnt so much more about autism from me that day that she thought it would be really helpful for other parents. She arranged for me to do a talk to the parents of other children like me.

It makes me feel uplifted to know how much people appreciate my talks, to be told how much of a difference I am making in helping them to understand more about autism from a personal perspective and this encourages me to do more. I believe that information about autism is better when it comes from someone who is autistic."

Simon was diagnosed with Autism at the age of five. His mum and dad realised something was different about Simon when he was about two to three-years-old, because he played differently to other children. He didn’t engage and interact with others. He didn’t cuddle or give eye contact. He had difficulties with speech and hated change. But unfortunately autism wasn’t as well known as it is today.

Simon went to a mainstream school with a statement of special educational needs. At school he had one-to-one support, speech and language therapy. He also attended a behaviour unit for a short period and later on had support from the Autistic Spectrum Condition Support Services which came into his school to give advice and support.

Simon struggled at school however when he went to Plumpton College he excelled as he was able to choose a subject that he had a real interest in and he left after 3 years as the top student with a distinction in ‘Animal Management’.

While unemployed Simon did voluntary work for Autism Sussex, running social group and helping to mentor young adults on Autistic spectrum. He also did voluntary work at Downs View Link College which is a college for students’ age 16 to 19 years old with SLD, PMLD and Autism.

In 2012 Simon applied for the post of Mid-day Supervisory Assistant at Downs View Link College which he was successful in obtaining. In 2014 Simon was successful at gaining a job as a Supply Teaching Assistant and in July 2016 he applied for a full time post as a Teaching Assistant and was successful!

Ideas / Strategies Compiled by Simon & Kim Smith 'Developing Inclusion in our Schools & Colleges' University of Sussex - June 2017

Top Tips

  • Remember all children across the autistic spectrum are unique individuals and have their own personality . They have strengths which an be built upon, even though they may follow different pathways in their development.
  • Importance of key observations - to understand the individual child's behaviours and their way of learning.
  • Appreciate behaviour always happens for a reason and has a purpose. By observing the child's behaviour and keeping a written note of any incidents, you may be able to notice a pattern. What are they trying to tell you? Consider the iceberg effect. You may see a particular behaviour, but the underlying reason may not be clear.
  • Do they understand what they have done wrong? They may not learn from experience as they may have great difficulty applying what they have learnt in one situation to another.
  • Be consistent. Whatever strategy you choose to use with the child it is essential that you are consistent. To be successful all those involved with the child should use the same strategy and language in response to the child's behaviour.

    Sensory Issues

      • Recognise that certain materials, toys, objects, lights, sounds, smells and textures and even touch might cause distress, confusion or sensitivity to children with autism.
      • Where possible reduce distractions which may prevent focus.
      • Create an environment that doesn't overwhelm the child with choice, noise or colour.
      • Keep classroom areas clearly define.
      • Sensory breaks/diets during the day.


      • Use parent's knowledge and exprtise they have about their child.
      • Plan how the environment can support the child.
      • Plan break and lunch times - can be difficult times.
      • Acknowledge the child's need for individual space - a safety place they can go to when everything gets too much.
      • Use the child's need for routine by introducing regular, short 'learning' sessions at times they expect.

    Visual Support

      • Importance of picture association - linking words to pictures and visual clues.
      • Visual timetables/schedules to show routine / what's next.
      • Social Stories.

    Build upon their strengths/interests

      • Use the child's interests to involve them in other activities.
      • Use interests to motivate them as rewards.

    Skills / Tasks

      • Need to repetitively demonstrated.
      • The skill/task should be introduced sensitively to reduce confusion and be aware that they may pay attention to trivial details of a task and miss the point of the exercise.
      • Try not to introduce more than one new skill/task at a time. Once completed successfully then demonstrate different ways of completing the skill/task, as they find it hard to generalize a skill i.e. difficulty applying an idea or skill learnt for one activity to a different context.

    Supporting communication

      • Make sure you have the child's attention before you speak to them.
      • If possible encourage the child do look at you for shared attention but don't force them.
      • Always use the child's name at the start of a sentence rather than at the end so they know you are talking to them.
      • It might be useful to touch them lightly or take hold of their hand when you start speaking to them but be aware that some children may be aversive to touch.
      • Be specific in language you use and demonstrate if you think they don't understand.
      • Avoid using idioms e.g. "pull your socks up.".
      • Be aware that they may not also realise 'everyone' includes them when you give instruction to the whole group e.g. "Everyone, it's tidy up time".
      • Reduce the amount of spoken language especially when child is stressed.

    Peer Interaction - It's important to model the skills needed to initiate and maintain to develop these skills.

    Praise and encouragement for every social communication and interaction no mater how small and for every time they join in.