Coleg Gwent ALN Manager Elaine Jones shares her experience of studying towards the PG Cert SEN/ALN (Autism), which forms part of the full MA offered by the University of South Wales.
Elaine is responsible for the operational management and continuous quality improvement of all aspects of the College’s ALN provision. She also contributes towards its strategic development which includes ensuring that the College is well prepared for the implementation of the ALN and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act. Elaine is also the designated ALN Coordinator for the College.
Tell us a little about why you work in the field of ILS/ALN provision
I started my career as a teacher in a primary school in an inner-city area of Birmingham. Many of the children had ALN and/or had adverse childhood experiences (ACE). I then worked with young people who had left school with minimal qualifications and held a negative view of education. Thankfully, the knowledge and understanding of ALN and ACE has increased over the years. For most children and young people, the right interventions and support will improve their life chances and will enable them to have a successful, independent future. I continue to work in ALN so that I can advocate for young people and promote the strengths and abilities they have as well as helping them to overcome the barriers they may face.
Outline the reasons why you were keen to take up the opportunity to study towards the PG Cert SEN/ALN (Autism) with the University of South Wales
I was keen to update my knowledge and understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). As my role involves providing advice, it’s essential that I continue my professional development.
Tell us briefly about what the study entailed
My project title was Should support at an FE college assist an autistic learner to adapt to learning within the college or should we focus on adapting the college environment to meet the needs of the learner? Primarily, I’m interested in the differences between the social and medical models of disability. Further education has an important role in ensuring differences are respected, in preparing all young people for adult life and facilitating societal change. We need to move away from the medical model of ‘curing’ people and move closer to the social model where sometimes small changes to environment and curriculum delivery can improve outcomes for all learners.
We must consider whether we pay sufficient attention to promoting a positive attitude towards autism and accepting that autistic learners have strengths that should be valued as well as challenges that can be addressed. Autistic learners are trying to fit into a neurotypical alien world and their efforts to camouflage the difficulties they are experiencing are having a negative impact on their mental health.
What worked well for you?
- Our course leader Dr Carmel Conn was knowledgeable and contactable. She was helpful and responded swiftly to emails.
- I was also directed to up-to-date research materials, which was hugely helpful.
- Being able to get the views of college staff working directly with ASD young people as well as managers who are responsible for support was also a huge benefit.
What didn’t work so well?
It would have been beneficial to have had the opportunity for some face-to-face tutorial sessions. However, this was not possible due to the Covid restrictions in place.
What benefits do you believe that this qualification can bring to your college and the experiences of learners with additional learning needs?
This qualification has improved my understanding of the impact that sensory differences can have on young people with ASD, and has resulted in a fresh and honest evaluation of the suitability of the college environment. In addition, I’m now able to provide more guidance to staff I line-manage as well as to staff supporting young people with ASD.
What practical learnings do you plan to implement at your college from this course?
As the College has plans to build a new campus, I will be directly inputting and advising on the spaces needed for young people with ASD.
Would you recommend this qualification to others working in the field of SEN and ALN?
Yes, I would recommend this qualification to others working in the field of FE ALN. The information I’ve gained will improve my practice and was worth the commitment of time and energy.
University of South Wales
MA SEN/ALN (Autism)