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Why the Education Community Needs to Understand Girls with Autism

A continued discussion with education advisor Carol Allen

Part two in a two-part series. View part one here.

In part two of this interview with Carol Allen, education advisor for technology and inclusion and the Senior Education Advisor for the Hartlepool Borough Council in the U.K., we hear about her upcoming participation in the Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) next month in Miami and the presentations she will be making on dyslexia, autism and technology, and other key topics in the world of edtech.

In terms of technical support, Allen believes the barriers facing dyslexia education are, at present, being well addressed. Whether it’s Apple, Google, or Microsoft, most major technology companies are providing plenty of offerings. Allen expands, “To my mind, nobody with dyslexia should be disadvantaged by not having a technology solution that’s personal to them and portable, whether it be cloud-based or something they carry around─whatever works in their situation.”

The problem may lie in support of the technology itself. Allen points to well-structured programs for teaching reading and literacy like the OJ programs, and Wilson Reading Systems but sees a lack of overall built-in support. “The bottom line is we also need to get tech support. The two can go hand in hand,” she says.

According to Allen, it takes conferences like FETC to get to the bottom of why technologies aren’t always reaching the people who need it most. It centers around communication and a realization that presenters and educators should avoid the assumption that information perceived as commonplace is adequately described and disseminated to all parents, schools, and teachers.

“This is why FETC and all the other conferences are vital. I don’t know about you, but, sometimes, I get up to speak, and I [experience] ‘impostor syndrome.’ You think, why am I doing this because everything I’m going to say is so obvious and so everyday. [But] then, every single time, people are scribbling or asking for notes. Sometimes, parents come up crying thanking you, and you’re thinking, ‘you shouldn’t be crying, and you shouldn’t be thanking me. I haven’t done anything magical. I’ve just told you what’s available.'”

Allen wraps up the interview with a peek at her FETC presentation entitled Autism and Technology: Different for Girls? Over the last three to four years in the U.K. and other countries, the question of doing a better job addressing the needs of girls with autism has come to the forefront. Allen sees dramatic shifts in understanding the dynamics and diagnosis of female autism.

As she explains, “When I first started working and doing presentations, I used to say that autism is primarily male; it’s mostly boys who present [with signs of having autism]. I had worked in special schools and special ed for years. All my classes with autism were mostly boys. I had the occasional girl. [But] what I used to say is that she’s the most difficult; she’s very profound and very difficult to work with. I [would] use slightly different techniques. With all the work [that’s happened] over the last few years, we’ve uncovered a whole group of girls who have autism, but present in a different way [than] the traditional views of children with autism. [Many] mask it incredibly successfully at school. A lot of them do quite well, but they suffer incredibly from anxiety; they suffer incredibly from social problems [and] the girls suffer even more.”

About Carol Allen

Carol Allen is Senior Education Advisor for the Hartlepool Borough Council. Carol was named one of the top ten educators for 2018 in the field of educational technology for her inclusion work, see #EdTech2018. She is also recognized as one of the UK’s 2018 EdTech 50, a prestigious recognition given by the UK’s Secretary of Education to the 50 people, products, and programs shaping education technology. Carol is also list owner for sld-forum, an international mailing list for practitioners and educators interested in the effective teaching and learning for those with complex barriers to learning. 

Carol Allen on LinkedIn

Carol Allen’s Sessions at FETC

The 40th anniversary Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) will take place January 14-17, 2020 in Miami, Fla. Registration is now open at Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC)

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