Children with additional needs
YAC’s bi-annual Census has shown that YAC clubs are very likely to have members with dyslexia, dyspraxia and autistic spectrum disorders, and YAC prides itself on providing a welcoming atmosphere for these young people. It can be daunting to encounter these for the first time, but a little extra thought and communication is often all that’s needed.
Paying attention to your members, listening and responding to their feedback is a great place to start. Try not to make assumptions: if a person doesn’t respond well to a particular activity, talk to them about it and you may well find that a small adjustment – either in the activity or in your understanding - is all that’s needed.
While the active learning archaeology provides is great for many young people, for others it can be potentially stressful. Giving clear instructions is a must. Be patient if you need to repeat instructions, think about whether what you’re saying is easy to understand, and give young people time to process the information you give. If someone wants to take a break from an activity, let them.
Bear in mind that some young people find it difficult to use or understand facial expressions, tone of voice, jokes, metaphors or sarcasm. Think about whether your communication can be misunderstood: something you say in jest might be taken seriously or literally by a young person.
Try to get to know the young people in your club and appreciate their skills and personalities: think of your members as individuals rather than a group, and try to bear their differences in mind in your planning. Will a different approach to a task make it more accessible and engaging?
If you are unsure about how best to support a particular member of your club, ask their parents or guardians for advice. For example, what successful strategies are used at school or home? If a member needs a lot of support, it is not unreasonable to ask a parent or guardian to accompany him/her at club sessions.
If you want to find out more about a particular issue, then the websites below are a good place to start. Try to remember though that dyslexia, dyspraxia and autistic spectrum disorders affect each person differently, so the best people to learn from are your members themselves, their families, carers and friends. You can always speak to YAC HQ if you’d like to talk about any issues or seek advice.
The National Autistic Society: www.autism.org.uk. Try reading their information section entitled Activity leaders and sports instructors: a guide to autism.
www.dyslexichelp.co.uk is run by and for parents of dyslexic children.
Dyspraxia Foundation www.dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk.
If a member of your Branch has another need that you’d like to find out more about, the SEN Teacher website is a useful starting point: www.senteacher.org/links/.