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16 October 2014

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Hero to Zero

By Colin Terrell
June 2005, south east Wales
A digital story from Capture Wales

Comfort in Wearing the Same Clothes

Often people with autism react to uncertainty. In the classroom, a group of teachers have found that wearing the same clothing every day helps make life a bit more comfortable.

"This is a story about me, an educational psychologist who, for once, wasn't able to come up with a smart answer.

I'd been called in by a school for autistic children where school trips were becoming a real worry. Every time a group went to the local shopping centre, one or two of the children would have a temper tantrum and would end up being 'persuaded' to return to the minibus with a member of staff!

An even bigger problem was that staff were regularly reported by the police by members of the public because, as you can imagine, it looked as if the children were being abducted from the shopping centre by complete strangers.

The teachers needed a solution and looked at me for help. I suggested maybe the children could wear a uniform but everyone agreed that wouldn't work - the teachers said some of the children just wouldn't do it. Then suddenly, one of the teachers suggested, "Well why don't WE wear a uniform so the public realise WE aren't abducting the children?" And so the staff began to wear a uniform.

Very quickly, going on trips got easier, but something else - more unexpected - happened too. The children's tantrums away from school got less, and their overall behaviour in school improved 100% because the children were no longer confused by staff members wearing different clothes everyday. This used to be Mrs Jones on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday - confusing or what!
(Images of Mrs Jones wearing different clothes for each day of the week)

The staff had found their own solution to some of their biggest problems - they'd 'got rid' of the temper tantrums, they'd 'got rid' of the police and they'd 'got rid' of the educational psychologist!"

Colin Terrell

Your comments

"A great anecdote to add to my list! I am responsible for school training (autism)any chance of using this clip please...so much better than saying "students with autism don't like change!"" V Pearce from Birmngham.

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