The occurrence of sleep disturbance among children with autism is known to be higher than the typical population. Studies have reported that sleep disturbance has been linked to reduced daytime functioning, increase in challenging behaviours and increase in family stress levels. Reports from parents at Queensmill School demonstrated that this was one major area of concern for our parents and pupils. The school ran the Sleepwise programme (O’Connell 2005), as a pilot, for ten pupils (aged three to eight) and their families at Queensmill School to see how far it can help improve their sleep habits.
The programme was delivered by Queensmill staff Caroline Bulmer and Charlotte Spencer who are well known to our pupils and families. The programme included:
- Two 3 hour workshops (one week apart) exploring in depth the issues around sleep and what parents could do to help their children.
- Parents completed a sleep diary of their son/daughter’s sleep habits in between the two training sessions.
- Meetings with Caroline or Charlotte in their home to complete a comprehensive sleep assessment.
- To undertake (over three months) the actions agreed in the individualised sleep programme drawn up by Caroline of Charlotte.
The Centre for Research in Autism and Education (CRAE) at University College of London has been running a project called De-Enigma at Queensmill School this term using a robot. They have been looking at whether a human-like robot can help children on the autism spectrum to learn to use and understand emotions in faces, voices and bodily movements.
The teaching sessions included a number of games and stories to teach the children about emotions. They started off easy and became more difficult as children began to learn the emotions. For example, in one game, the researcher/robot expressed ‘happy’ using their face, voice and gestures. The child was then shown a series of pictures and asked to choose which image matched the expression the researcher/robot made. In later sessions the child was also asked to imitate the emotion.
The games and stories used during the teaching sessions with the robot and child were then introduced to the parents. The project wanted to see whether what the children learned about emotions with the researcher and robot would be used with other people.
At first, some children were a bit anxious and shy with the robot. Other children began to share their toys with the robot but not the researchers, and some loved playing with the robot and focused their full attention on him, while in other situations they would be easily distracted.
Findings will be published later in the year.
This project aim is to produce a consultancy model for schools about effective pedagogies for the use of ICTS with children with special educational needs (SEN). This will involve identifying and developing examples of effective pedagogic practice (by teachers) in using ICTs which facilitate learning for and aid teaching of pupils with SEN and developing the skills of practitioners as e-mentors. This research is being carried out with teachers from Queensmill School lead by researchers at the Institute of Education.
The TIME-A Music Therapy trial (Randomised controlled trial of the effectiveness of Music Therapy for children with autism) is now underway at Queensmill with six children already participating in the trial.
If your child is aged between 4 yrs - 6 yrs 9 months old, has a diagnosis of autism, and you are interested in hearing more about the study, you can contact the researcher Lavanya Thana (07903 285508) or email L.firstname.lastname@example.org