Young people involved in an autism Schools’ Project have worked with Aspens to create a film to be used to help teachers in mainstream schools better understand the needs of neuro-diverse children. 

The film shoot took place as part of activity workshops run by our Family and Specialist Support team during the October half-term break.

The film, titled ‘Autism in Schools: The Big Report!’, is being produced by independent production company Darza Productions, and will be a fun and creative current affairs-style programme anchored and presented by the young people and showcasing the activities taking place at the workshops. The screening of the film will be shown at a special ‘premiere’ for the children and their families in February 2023. When complete the film will be used as part of training for teachers to help them better understand the needs of autistic young people.

The workshops are the culmination of an autism Schools’ Project aiming to tackle a lack of awareness around neurodiversity. The sessions were held in Chichester and Crawley and, along with the film shoot, included activities such as street dance and beatboxing and gave the young people, who are on the autism spectrum, the chance to talk about their school experiences.

Our team has been involved in the autism Schools’ Project in partnership with West Sussex County Council and the West Sussex Parent Carer Forum since the beginning of the year. The project addresses the issue of mainstream schools failing to respond to the needs of autistic students, which evidence has shown leads to a high number of exclusions and results in many young people reaching crisis point. Its core aim is to transform school environments and upskill staff to better meet the needs of autistic students.

Members of our Specialist Support team have worked with children, families and staff across a number of mainstream primary and secondary schools in West Sussex. Their work has helped autistic children to have a voice within the schools they attend, develop their autism self-awareness, encouraged them to find their individual strengths and ‘superpowers’ and raised awareness on the issues they face such as sensory processing and emotional regulation.

Tasha Brabon, Simon Cannon, Chris Foster, Lucy Colborn, Claire Lawrence and Jenny Boyd from our team ran the sessions in Chichester and Crawley.

Chris Foster, Behaviour Specialist at Aspens, said: “All of the entertainers and the film crew really helped build the children’s confidence and reduced their anxiety so they could all engage in the activities and helped to make it the special event it was. Simon, Tash, Lucy, Claire and Jenny were all fantastic and a credit to Aspens and we were so privileged to work with such an amazing group of young people and children.”

A parent whose daughter went to the half-term sessions said: "Thank you so much for the last two days, F had such a great time and has been practising the beatboxing (a lot) and was excited to show me her street dance moves and is still buzzing from using a real camera! She is extremely excited about February already. 

Friendships are such a battle at the moment in school so this was huge. After her session, she told me she now has three friends. This made me feel emotional - how she was talking so positively about the other girls. She was telling me how A and her have something in common- that they both have autism. Very interestingly when she saw my sister and said 'Guess what Aunty… I have autism' and then they went on to have a little chat. This is the first person she has told. She hasn’t wanted to talk about it before now.”  

Another parent said: "We are incredibly grateful for the inclusion of S in the fun days, they were fantastic for him and such a positive experience. S came home after the first day and said, 'It was such fun, I only wish school could be like that'. This is two-fold for us, as clearly he is not enjoying school in general and feel it's just not geared for his type of character - there are just too many boxes to fit into and he just struggles so much to conform. These special days that you put together were an absolute tonic for S and for us as parents.” 

Penny Piggott, Regional Area Manager for Family and Specialist Support Services at Aspens said: “We have been delighted to be involved in the autism Schools Project this year as we are passionate about raising awareness of autism within mainstream schools and supporting young people on the autism spectrum to have a better school experience. It was wonderful to invite the children involved in the Project to take part in these fun workshops and for them to get the chance to be part of the film about autism in schools.They absolutely loved it and were all real stars! We can’t wait to watch it with them at the premiere in February!”

Find out more about our Family and Specialist Support Services here.