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Autism Approaches

At Harry Watts Academy specialised approaches are used to support pupils’ individual learning needs.  A “Total Communication System” will be used with all pupils as required, including speech, symbols, photographs, objects of reference and Makaton signing.

Some pupils will require the use of the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) as their main communication strategy. PECS uses specific prompting and reinforcement strategies which lead to independent communication. The system uses automatic error correction procedures to promote learning. There are 6 phases to the system, from single action cards building to sentences, responding and questioning. Some pupils can progress from PECS to developing speech and others to using speech generating devices.

TEACCH strategies are used where appropriate and to meet individual needs to support the structure of lessons, scheduling and the layouts of classrooms. All classes have visual supports and timetables to aid understanding of concepts in lessons.

This helps to alleviate difficulties relating to receptive and/or expressive language difficulties; the need for familiarity; poor sequential memory; Inability to organise self and limit own behaviours; Hypersensitivity and distraction.

Intensive interaction is embedded within our Engage pathway. Intensive Interaction is both highly social and mainly responsive in nature, rather than being directive, or goal or target orientated. The approach focuses on using the ‘Fundamentals of Communication’ as a means of establishing and developing improved social communication exchanges.

Attention Autism is implemented in both the Engage and Explore pathway. Attention Autism is an intervention model that aims to develop natural and spontaneous communication through the use of visually based and highly motivating activities. The primary objective is that the sessions are fun and offer an irresistible invitation to learn”!

We recognise that our pupils can, for a variety of different reasons, have significant gaps in the knowledge or skills development and central to our curriculum is the acknowledgement that we have a duty to support pupils in addressing these gaps.


The SCERTS® Model is a research-based educational approach and multidisciplinary framework that directly addresses the core challenges faced by children and persons with ASD and their families. SCERTS® focuses on building competence in Social Communication, Emotional Regulation and Transactional Support as the highest priorities that must be addressed in any program. It provides specific guidelines for helping a child become a competent and confident social communicator, while preventing problem behaviours that interfere with learning and the development of relationships. It also is designed to help families, educators and therapists work cooperatively as a team, in a carefully coordinated manner, to maximise progress in supporting a child. At HWA SCERTS is used to inform pupil’s EHCP targets to ensure they are meeting their autism specific needs. They are then reviewed throughout the academic year.