Autism from the Inside Out

A Handbook for Parents, Early Childhood, Primary, Post-Primary and Special School Settings

by Emer Ring (Author) Patricia Daly (Author) Eugene Wall (Author)
©2018 Textbook XVI, 306 Pages


Autism from the Inside Out is the first book to focus on providing Irish parents, early childhood, primary, post-primary and special school teachers with effective strategies for supporting children with autism spectrum difference at home and in educational settings. Presenting contributions from a range of national and international experts in education and psychology, the volume emerged from an evaluation of education provision commissioned by Ireland’s National Council for Special Education, which clearly identified a need for additional guidance, advice and support for parents and teachers.
The book rejects «disorder» in favour of «difference», emphasizing the importance of a child-centred approach and the dangers of over-generalization. It includes chapters on effective teaching strategies to promote learning; responding to children’s strengths and needs through individualized planning; assessment practices; the role of the Special Needs Assistant; managing transitions; the environment as the third teacher; promoting children’s wellbeing; and effective leadership for inclusion.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures and Tables
  • Foreword (Adam Harris)
  • Introduction: Autism from the Inside Out: Context, Background, Rationale and Structure (Emer Ring / Patricia Daly / Eugene Wall)
  • Context
  • Situating the Research: Difference or Disorder?
  • Background to the Research
  • Education Provision for Children with Autism Spectrum Difference in Ireland
  • An Evaluation of Education Provision for Children with Autism Spectrum Difference in Ireland
  • Evaluation Research Methodology
  • Data Analysis
  • Rationale
  • The Structure of the Book
  • Part I: Teaching and Learning
  • Part II: Creating an Inclusive Culture
  • Part III: Management and Staff Development
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Part I Teaching and Learning
  • 1 Effective Teaching Strategies to Promote Successful Learning (Margaret Egan)
  • Introduction
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Theory of Mind
  • Central Coherence
  • Executive Functioning
  • Teaching Strategies for Children with Autism Spectrum Difference
  • The Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication-handicapped CHildren (TEACCH)
  • Attention Autism
  • Social Skills Coaching and Social Stories
  • Communication and Language Strategies
  • Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA)
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • 2 A Right to Play: Our Responsibility to Include Play in the Curriculum for Children with Autism Spectrum Difference (Lisha O’Sullivan)
  • Introduction
  • The Capacity of Children with Autism Spectrum Difference to Learn through Play
  • The Five Types of Play
  • Physical Play
  • Object Play
  • Pretend Play
  • Symbolic Play
  • Games with Rules
  • Social Play
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • 3 Addressing Children’s Sensory Differences: Strategies for Practice (Sarah Feeney)
  • Introduction
  • What is Sensory Integration?
  • Registration
  • Orientation
  • Interpretation
  • Organize a Response
  • Execute a Response
  • What Can We Do?
  • Understanding the Sensory Systems
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Appendix A: Glossary
  • Appendix B: Resources
  • 4 Supporting Children with Autism Spectrum Difference: The Role of the Special Needs Assistant/ Inclusion Support Assistant (Claire Griffin)
  • Introduction
  • The Varied and Stretched Role of the SNA/ISA
  • Special Needs Assistant Support Versus the Child’s Independence
  • Special Needs Assistants: Knowledge, Qualifications and Continuing Professional Development
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • 5 Individualized Planning: Bureaucratic Requirement or Critical for Effective Practice? (Michele Dunleavy-Lavin / Shirley Heaney / Sharon Skehill)
  • Introduction
  • Individualized Planning
  • Early Intervention Classes
  • Primary Schools
  • Post-Primary Schools
  • Special Schools
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • 6 Assessment and Children with Autism Spectrum Difference (Marie Ryan)
  • What Should We Assess?
  • How Should We Assess: Considering Assessment for Learning for Children with ASD
  • How Should We Assess: Considering Assessment of Learning for Children with ASD
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Part II Creating an Inclusive Culture
  • 7 Including Parents Right from the Start (Anne O’Byrne)
  • Introduction
  • Inclusive Cultures
  • Communication
  • Decision-making
  • Role of Fathers
  • Personal Philosophy of Parental Involvement
  • A Final Word
  • Bibliography
  • 8 Harnessing the Reggio Emilia Concept of the Environment as the ‘Third Teacher’ for Children with Autism Spectrum Difference (Emer Ring)
  • ‘Behaviour’ and Children with Autism Spectrum Difference
  • Education
  • The Environment as the ‘Third Teacher’
  • The Physical Environment
  • The Temporal Environment
  • The Interactional Environment
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • 9 Promoting Children’s Wellbeing (Patricia Daly)
  • What Is Wellbeing?
  • Wellbeing and Additional Needs
  • Wellbeing and Autism Spectrum Difference
  • Wellbeing for Children with Autism Spectrum Difference in Ireland
  • Strategies for Promoting Wellbeing and Managing Anxiety
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Part III Management and Staff Development
  • 10 Developing Knowledge and Understanding of Autism Spectrum Difference (Stella Long)
  • Introduction
  • Opportunities to Develop Knowledge and Understanding of Inclusive Practices
  • Implications for Practice
  • Bibliography
  • 11 Leading Learning for Children with Autism Spectrum Difference (Johanna Fitzgerald)
  • Introduction
  • Effective Leadership in Turbulent Times
  • Principles of Effective Leadership
  • Leading Collaboratively Mediated Change: Developing Education Settings as Learning Organizations
  • The Future
  • Bibliography
  • Appendix A: Reflection Facilitates Action
  • 12 Self-Evaluation: The Way Forward (Fionnuala Tynan)
  • Contextualizing Self-evaluation within the Inclusion Debate
  • Understanding Self-Evaluation
  • Teacher Self-Evaluation
  • Self-Evaluation in Educational Settings
  • Learner Self-Evaluation/Self-Assessment
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Appendix A: Blank SCOT Analysis Template
  • Appendix B: Blank ‘What’ Model of Reflection Template
  • Appendix C: Gibb’s Reflective Cycle in Steps (Blank Template)
  • Appendix D: Reflections on Inclusion (Leadership for INClusion in the Early Years (LINC) Programme 2016–2018)
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index

| ix →

Figures and Tables

Cover image: This drawing was completed by an eleven-year old child attending a mainstream primary school. A core principle of the research on which this book is based was to capture and include children’s voices. Children were invited to draw a picture of their school experience and subsequently describe the drawing to the researcher. The child described his drawing as depicting himself and his friend inside the classroom window looking out at the school yard. In this drawing, the child challenges the assumption that children with ASD prefer social isolation to engaging both with each other and their peers. Critically, the child communicates the responsibility for us as educators to create enabling and inclusive environments for all children.

Figure 1: Middletown Centre for Autism and National Council for Special Education Evaluation Framework

Figure 1.1: Teaching Strategies Selected by Teachers in the Irish Study

Figure 1.2: Strategies to Support Language Understanding

Figure 3.1: Ziggurat Model (adapted from Aspy and Grossman 2011)

Figure 5.1: The Individual Education Plan Process

Figure 7.1: Drawing by a Child in a Mainstream Primary School

Figure 7.2: Drawing by a Child in a Special School

Figure 7.3: Drawing by a Child in a Mainstream Primary Irish-Speaking School

Figure 7.4: Drawing by a Child in a Post-Primary School

Figure 7.5: Drawing by a Child in a Special School

Figure 8.1: Key Elements in the Philosophy of Education at Reggio Emilia ← ix | x →

Figure 9.1: The Interrelationships Between ASD and Intellectual Capacity

Figure 9.2: Pictures by Primary-Age Children with ASD

Figure 12.1: The ‘Self’ of Self-Evaluation

Figure 12.2: ‘What’ Model of Reflection

Figure 12.3: Gibb’s Reflective Cycle

Figure 12.4: The School Self-Evaluation Six-Step Process

Table 1: Summary of the Multiple-Case Study Research Approach and Data Sources

Table 2: Research Sites

Table 3: Exemplars of Children’s Drawings

Table 4: Measurement and Weighting Criteria for Evaluation Data

Table 1.1: Visual Supports

Table 1.2: Six-Step Approach to Functional Behaviour Assessment (FBA)-based Intervention

Table 1.3: The Six ‘Musts’ for Effective Teaching and Learning

Table 3.1: Signposts for Accommodating Visual Differences in Early Years, Primary, Post-Primary and Special School Settings

Table 3.2: Signposts for Accommodating Auditory Differences in Early Years, Primary, Post-Primary and Special School Settings

Table 3.3: Signposts for Accommodating Olfactory Differences in Early Years, Primary, Post-Primary and Special School Settings

Table 3.4: Signposts for Accommodating Gustatory Differences in Early Years, Primary, Post-Primary and Special School Settings

Table 3.5: Signposts for Accommodating Tactile Differences in Early Years, Primary, Post-Primary and Special School Settings ← x | xi →

Table 3.6: Signposts for Accommodating Vestibular Differences in Early Years, Primary, Post-Primary and Special School Settings

Table 3.7: Signposts for Accommodating Proprioceptive Differences in Early Years, Primary, Post-Primary and Special School Settings

Table 4.1: Snapshot of SNA Support in Schools for Children with ASD (NCSE 2015: 39)

Table 6.1: Autism Standardized Assessment Considerations Checklist (ASACC)

Table 8.1: Time-Sampling of Children’s On-Task Behaviour

Table 8.2: Children’s Work included in Classroom Displays

Table 9.1: Evaluating Positive Wellbeing for Children with ASD in Educational Settings

Table 10.1: Profile of Inclusive Teachers (European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education 2012)

Table 12.1: Sample SCOT Analysis as Teacher Self-Evaluation

Table 12.2: Sample Analysis of IEP Targets as Evidence in the School Self-Evaluation Process

Table 12.3: Sample Analysis of IEP Targets in Literacy as Evidence in the School Self-Evaluation Process

Table 12.4: Sample ‘I Can’ Self-Assessment Grid

| xiii →



Since I was a very young child, Ireland has been on a journey in terms of how it understands, supports and includes children with ‘special’ or ‘additional’ educational needs. We have moved, relatively quickly, from a model in which virtually no children who thought differently were educated in their local community to a point in which the vast majority are today. Indeed, this shift in policy and thought played out directly in my own life – as someone on the autism spectrum.

When I was first diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome as a young child, my parents faced a stark choice. Should they send me to mainstream school, where they knew I would be able for the curriculum but would receive little or no support in accessing it and could well be labelled ‘the bold boy’ as a result? Or should they send me to a special school, where they knew I would receive lots of support but wouldn’t have the same academic opportunities or get to know my local peer group? On balance, my parents opted for the latter and I spent the first three years of my education in a special school setting. I really benefited from my time there but policy and thought began to shift too and so, shortly before my eighth birthday, I moved to a local mainstream school with a real commitment to inclusion but also supports to help me thrive such as a Special Needs Assistant (SNA) and access to resource teaching hours. This certainly changed the trajectory of my life, and the broader policy and thought underpinning educational journeys like mine has doubtless changed the lives of countless other people and, dare I say, the education system itself.

Whereas once schools and teachers may rarely have heard words like ‘autism’ or ‘Asperger’s’, now you would be hard pushed to find a school or teacher anywhere in Ireland who does not have direct experience of teaching a member of the autism community. Whilst once autism might have sounded like an exotic or rare condition, it is now something that children ← xiii | xiv → and young people encounter as part of day to day life in their community. Indeed, the education system has become ‘autism aware’.

However, there is a distinct difference between awareness and understanding. Awareness is about knowing something exists; understanding is about stepping into a person’s shoes and validating their perspective. Awareness is a vital first step in any journey towards inclusion; however, it is only the first step. I am aware that Mandarin Chinese is a language; however, I don’t understand it. As a result, I can’t meaningfully include a person who only speaks that language. In the same sense, we must ensure that all who work in our education system truly understand autism and the unique way in which autistic people communicate, understand and experience the world around us. ‘Mainstreaming’ has been something of a buzzword for some time – we have mainstreamed people, but we now must mainstream knowledge if we are to ensure inclusive education is not about legal access to buildings or educational institutions but rather about unlocking a person’s potential and respecting and celebrating diversity.

That is what excites me about Autism from the Inside Out: A Handbook for Parents, Early Childhood, Primary, Post-Primary and Special School Settings, edited by Professor Eugene Wall, Dr Patricia Daly and my friend Dr Emer Ring, with contributions from a broad range of academics from Mary Immaculate College. This book is an important tool in bridging the gap between awareness and understanding – providing all who support autistic students with accessible knowledge and practical methodologies, which can be employed both at home and in the classroom. This book builds on the proud history of Mary Immaculate College in relation to autism research and early childhood and teacher education, which has not only been extensive but has also recognized the unique needs of autistic students. Too often excellent research never converts to any real practical purpose from the point of view of families on the ground; this text harnesses a number of years of hard work into something we can all learn from. In the course of my own work as an autism advocate I have the opportunity to visit many schools and so often see excellent examples of inclusion that you would love to ‘bottle’ and bring to every school. This book, which is built on data from the research carried out by Mary Immaculate College staff as part of the National Council for Special Education’s Autism Policy ← xiv | xv → Advice, does just that, highlighting examples of good practice which can be employed in any early years setting or school.

It is important that this book takes a long view of autism, from the early years setting through to post-primary education. I am very often asked questions by parents and teachers which look for a ‘eureka’ moment for me. What helped me make friends? What allowed me to cope with the transition to mainstream school? How do I manage my sensory system? The answer is never one thing or one moment. It is always the culmination of work by a variety of key people in my life, at a number of key junctures, which, over time, has enabled me to learn and to overcome some key challenges. I socialize today because my parents pushed me to join extra-curricular activities from when I was around five years old, but also because I did transition year when I was sixteen years old. I managed the move to mainstream school because I had an excellent principal and SNA in the school I moved to, but also because the special school I was in worked to support my transition for many months prior to my move. In autism, there are no quick solutions, but you reap what you sow. The work of a teacher in second class may appear to change little, but it may be cashed in ten years later for all to see! For that reason, it is important that there is better joined up thinking between educators and the sectors that make up the system. It is welcome to see a publication which very much advocates team work in terms of supporting a child. I know that an important aspect of my educational journey was the positive relationship Mum and Dad had with my school and the active role my SNA played in the Individual Education Plan planning process. Too often, titles, egos and mutual unease can lead to disjointed and even dysfunctional approaches. This book not only advocates teamwork but backs up its benefits with evidence.


XVI, 306
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2018 (October)
autism spectrum difference inclusion children parents, early years’, primary, special school and post-primary settings
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2018. XVI , 306 pp., 17 fig. col., 5 fig. b/w, 24 tables

Biographical notes

Emer Ring (Author) Patricia Daly (Author) Eugene Wall (Author)

Emer Ring is Head of the Department of Reflective Pedagogy and Early Childhood Studies at Mary Immaculate College. She worked previously as a primary teacher and a senior inspector with the Department of Education and Skills and has published widely in the area of education, with a particular focus on autism spectrum difference and inclusion. Patricia Daly is Head of the Department of Educational Psychology, Inclusive and Special Education at Mary Immaculate College. Previously she worked as a post-primary teacher in Ireland and lectured at several universities in the United States, including Ohio Dominican University. Eugene Wall is Acting President of Mary Immaculate College and previously worked as a primary teacher and educational psychologist. He lectures in developmental and educational psychology and is co-author of the MICRA-T and SIGMS-T, two of the most widely used standardized tests in Irish primary schools.


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