Incredible Years Autism Teacher programme gains momentum

Issue: Volume 99, Number 14

Posted: 3 September 2020
Reference #: 1HAAXc

A pilot scheme in which Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour (RTLB) in south Auckland have been trained to deliver the Incredible Years Autism programme is already seeing results in the classroom.

Incredible Years Autism Teacher Programme

In 2018, the Incredible Years Autism Teacher (IYAT) programme was rolled out by the Ministry of Education in eight regions for teachers and parents who support preschool tamariki on the autism spectrum.

There has been a huge demand for the IYAT programme in Auckland since its rollout. The Auckland pilot scheme sees RTLB clusters, who normally work with Year 1–10 students, run training programmes for early learning services and primary school teachers, says Akari Miyamoto, IYA project lead for the Ministry of Education.n 2018, the Incredible Years Autism Teacher (IYAT) programme was rolled out by the Ministry of Education in eight regions for teachers and parents who support preschool tamariki on the autism spectrum.

“It’s great for RTLB to get in touch with early learning teachers and having the two groups of teachers working together on the programme will make them aware of the importance of the transition between early learning and primary school,” she says.

Core business for RTLB

Jane Keir and  Susie Talimalo-Ikihele are RTLB in Manawanui Cluster 10, which works with 29 schools in Otara and Papatoetoe, and alongside early childhood centres to transition students to school. They have both been involved in the Incredible Years programmes for teachers and parents and became aware of the Incredible Years Autism programme which has been piloted in ECE settings around New Zealand. The pilot is the first time the programme has been offered in schools in south Auckland.

“It is very much core business for us. We said to the Ministry, ‘Train us, we need this programme’, and they agreed to trial it,” says Jane.

IYA has wider reach

Once the Ministry gave the green light for the pilot scheme, Jane says nine RTLB from four south Auckland clusters (9, 10, 12, and 13) were trained in February this year by Dr Carolyn Webster-Stratton, American clinical psychologist and founder of the Incredible Years programmes. 

The programmes were so popular that they are over-subscribed. Participants were enthusiastic about the ideas being shared and how they could be incorporated into their teaching practice.

“IYA complements a suite of programmes that we are able to offer and there is a definite overlap. We work with children who have neuro-diversities all of the time and there is no core programme as well-structured [as IYA] that’s available for us to be involved in. 

“We know that if we can upskill a teacher, then we can provide service to an entire class, rather than just working with one child who is referred to us. Having teachers coming into the IY teacher programme means that our case work is far more effective and reaches more people,” says Jane.

Think like a scientist

During the programme, teachers are guided on ways to get into a child’s ‘attention spotlight’ (or world) using the tools and strategies outlined in the programme to better support children on the autism spectrum.

“One teacher was dealing with a child who was wetting himself at school, and his parents shared that he did not do this at home. The teacher began to monitor and investigate what was happening and realised that the toilet lights were off when he wanted to go. He was highly sensory and would not turn on the lights. The teacher turned on the toilet lights and kept them on during the day, and no more incidences occurred.

“That happened because we talked about spotlighting his ‘interest’ and finding out the real issue around what might be happening. During the IYA programme we  use an ‘I am incredible’ template. This allows teachers to spotlight interests, sensory likes and dislikes, family background etc. It was in using this IYA tool that the teacher was able to identify possible sensory dislikes for each student,” says Susie.

Collaboration within diverse communities

Susie says a programme like IYA has huge potential in south Auckland, where it can help Māori and Pacific families gain a better understanding of neuro-diversity.

“The success of the programme is about positive participation, working collaboratively and group discussions. It would definitely be valuable to have parents and teachers learning together in a culturally responsive way, as well as creating a safe and encouraging space to share and work together in,” explains Susie.

Jane also sees value in delivering the programme to parents alongside teachers.

“We would like to continue delivering IYA but we would actually like to have parents and the teachers in the same programme because we feel that if they are all learning the same material about the child, that’s really powerful. I think you could get a better outcome if you could have both together,” says Jane.

Understanding needed

South Auckland is the most densely populated area in New Zealand with the least amount of community resources, claims Jane.

“There’s just such a need for an understanding of neuro-diversity in our schools and a quality programme that delivers skills that teachers can practically use – otherwise the needs of those children are not being met in the classroom. We would love to see every one of the 40 RTLB clusters in New Zealand being able to offer it,” says Jane.

The Ministry of Education is currently working on enabling RTLB and Ministry staff to deliver the Incredible Years Autism programme in partnership to enhance the range of expertise and experience offered to schools and communities. IYA parent programmes, provided by the Ministry, District Health Board (DHB) staff and an NGO are also available for caregivers in Auckland.

Teacher kōrero

Reeta Achary, Papatoetoe East School

Every year I have had a child/children on the spectrum in my class and I have worked alongside an RTLB or tried my best using strategies that I was familiar with to implement into my programme. When the opportunity for this course was offered, I grabbed it with both hands. 

The programme is amazing, with a group of educators who are all experiencing the same challenges and are on this journey with the same vision ‘to help my student’. 

The workshop is very inclusive and every discussion or ‘gem’ as we call it in our workshop is taken on board and valued. There are ‘spotlights’ that are unpacked, which everyone can relate to. 

It has an excellent vibe with the two facilitators delivering a great presentation where everyone has the opportunity to share their resources or strategies they have tried in their learning space. 

In the last session there was a lot of emphasis on ‘pretend or dramatic play’. Being in a school that supports learning through play, I have the opportunity of using this idea in my class.  

Sashi Rattan, Mayfield Primary School, Otara  

I found the IYA programme to be very informative. The three sessions I attended provided specific skills on promoting language development in students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. 

Learning the skills, how to promote peer social communication through social coaching to children with limited language; demonstrating social behaviour by prompting and empathy during play thus encouraging social skills that you would like to see your child exhibit, helped my professional and personal life. 

I appreciated the two facilitators, Jane and Susie, for their down-to-earth manner. Their concise presentation and warm empathy made me feel welcomed. They listened to us with patience and with great consideration, really helping everyone to understand all aspects of language development in children.

You can read about the Incredible Years Autism programme(external link) in Issue 20, 2019.

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BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 1:30 PM, 3 September 2020

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