A Teaching Assistant at a school in Garforth has been the first person in Leeds, and only the third in the country, to receive the Autism Education Trust Gold Star Award. Helen Teasdale who works at St Benedict’s Catholic Primary School in Garforth was presented with the award for her outstanding work in supporting children with autism.
Helen was nominated for the award by the STARS team (Specialists Training in Autism and Raising Standards), an autism outreach team based in Leeds. Having already received an AET Silver Star award earlier in the year. Not only has Helen improved the lives of the children on the autism spectrum that she works with and helped educate other staff about autism, she also set up The Jigsaw Tree, an online community for people with autism as well as a local parent support group for East Leeds.
Cathy Smith, Outreach Teacher from the STARS team comments:
“Helen has been a real inspiration in everything she has achieved for her school and for the children she works with. She makes such a difference to the school life of the children with autism that she supports and it is fabulous to see the progress the children make with her. She has also undertaken in depth professional training in autism education so that she is in a position to help promote understanding about autism among the other staff. We wish her every success in continuing to help children on the autism spectrum.”
In the award evaluation, Helen was commended for the way she engaged with parents, devised ways to support children with autism in the classroom, and created resources, displays and presentations to staff to help them learn about autism.
The AET Autism Stars recognise and celebrate the outstanding contribution of individuals in creating an autism friendly culture, either in education or community settings. The awards give individuals the opportunity to be nominated and recognised for the work they do or have done to support a child or young person with autism. From shop assistants to headteachers, bus drivers
to speech and language therapists, the Autism Awards celebrate those who make an important and often unsung contribution to the lives of children and young people with autism, and their families. Individuals are initially nominated for an AET Autism Silver Star Award and are then invited to apply for an AET Autism Gold Star Award.
The Autism Education Trust
The Autism Education Trust (AET) is a partnership of public and voluntary organisations focussing on autism education, founded by Ambitious About Autism, the Council for Disabled Children and the National Autistic Society. Funded by the Department for Education, the AET is dedicated to coordinating, supporting and promoting effective education practice for all children and young people on the autism spectrum.
In 2012, the AET launched one of the most wide-ranging professional development programmes in autism education to raise the level of autism knowledge and improve practice across the board. This is now the largest ever face-to-face autism training programme for schools in England and is aimed at all education professionals and school staff.
The training is delivered via a network of training hubs around England, of which the STARS Team is one of the original schools hubs. Training is delivered in three levels, with Level 1 being a basic introduction relevant to anyone working in a school and Levels
2 and 3 are more in depth. To date, over 42,000 individuals have attended AET training since 2012. The AET training programme now also extends to Early Years and Post-16 settings.
In addition, the AET has developed a set of national autism education standards to allow schools to evaluate their capacity to support young people with autism, as well as a competency framework to support professional development.