What is My Teachers TV?
Quickly access content relevant to you. Log in below or Register now.
Bookmark this page
Follow Teachers TV
Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on iTunes

Jacqui Jackson

Jacqui Jackson is the mother of seven children, including four boys on the autistic spectrum: Luke, who is 16 and has Asperger syndrome; Joe, 12, who has ADHD and Ben, eight, who is on the autistic spectrum and attends a special school.

Jacqui is working towards a PhD on autism and also worked as a script consultant on Magnificent 7, a BBC drama based on her life, in which she was played by Helena Bonham-Carter. Here she speaks to Teachers TV about what's been working for her children in the classroom.

What were your experiences when Luke started at secondary school five years ago?

I've had to look for teachers that were "autism-friendly", as I call them. In all fairness, it's very hard for teachers because they have so many guidelines to follow and so much planning to do for each lesson - I don't think a lot of them have enough time.

As a parent, what have you noticed about the way autistic children learn?

If you remove the autistic labels, it's all about learning styles. The reason we have the labels is to get a handle on exactly what set of behaviours will be experienced with a different child - but of course we don't always get exactly what we're expecting because autistic children are all individuals.

One of the key things is finding out how the child learns best and going along with it, whether it's visual, structured or hands-on learning. The teacher is the one who should be flexible, because autistic kids can't be.

What teaching techniques have worked well with your children?

Joe had difficulties concentrating during maths lessons, so that was the worst lesson for him. He can concentrate, you just have to work out how to tap your way into it. He was constantly being kicked out and getting detention. This went on for about six months, and then it suddenly started to get better.

He told me that his maths teacher Mr Sagar had started to use techniques like putting music on in the classroom because it helps Joe concentrate, dividing pizzas up to demonstrate fractions and things like that. They're still following the curriculum and even though it's adapted to Joe's learning style, the other kids love it too.

What advice would you give to teachers when it comes to working with parents of autistic children?

Talk to parents and get as much information as possible about their child. If the parent is able to say at the start, "Don't sit my child next to a window, because all he'll do is look outside" then the teacher can sit him away from the window and save themselves a lot of trouble.

Have there been any other effective schemes that Luke, Ben and Jo's teachers have used at their schools?

With Ben, who's at special school, everything's perfect at the moment, as they've adapted to him. He doesn't like assemblies, but he's going out into the playground now and having fun - in small doses.

The sensory issues that the boys all have shouldn't be underestimated. If the lights are too bright or something smells, it can really stop them being able to learn. Joe once told one of his support workers that her breath smelt!

Finally, I personally think most classrooms are too in your face. If there are pictures all over the walls, children are already over-stimulated before you even start to teach them. I think that's something that could apply across the board, not just for autistic children.

Mark Haddon's bestselling 2003 novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time got a lot of people thinking about autism. What did you think of the book?

If it makes people think and raises awareness, it can only be a good thing. But it was frustrating in a way, because it featured the stereotype of the child with Asperger's who's really good at maths. Luke can't do maths to save his life! So in some ways, it perpetuated the "Rain Man" stereotype.

How does it feel to be played by Helena Bonham-Carter in a programme inspired by your life?

The whole thing's a bit strange, but I'm happy with the way she's done it. I think the strangest thing is the point of view shots; at one stage it shows Luke's angle. That's something I've never had.