Today marks the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week, an annual event organised by the Mental Health Foundation to encourage us all to think about mental health, challenge stigma, and find out how we can create a society that protects our mental well-being.
The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is Anxiety. Anxiety is a feeling that we all experience from time to time, but anxiety is significant concern for many autistic individuals. According to the National Autistic Society, around 70% of autistic adults in the UK report experiencing mental health conditions, with anxiety being one of the most common issues they face. At LAMP we have lots of measures in place to help lesson our students’ anxieties. There isn’t a one size fits all solution to coping with anxiety, but these little steps can certainly help make our school environment less daunting for anxious students.
Reduced Class Sizes
Our class sizes are very small, we have a maximum of 4 students in a class with the majority actually being two on one or one on one environments. In smaller classes, teachers can provide attention and support to each student. This allows them to better understand the unique needs and challenges of students, and tailor their teaching approaches accordingly. Students can receive personalized guidance, accommodations, and strategies to navigate their specific needs more effectively. Large class sizes can be overwhelming for anxious and autistic students due to sensory sensitivities. With fewer students, the overall noise level, visual distractions, and sensory input are often minimized. This creates a calmer learning environment, reducing the likelihood of sensory overload and associated anxiety. Smaller class sizes can facilitate more manageable and meaningful social interactions. For anxious and autistic students who struggle with social skills or feel overwhelmed in larger groups, a smaller class provides a supportive setting to practice and develop social connections.
Everyone’s needs and interests are different, that’s why at LAMP every student has their own, individual timetable where they chose the subjects they study and get to work at their own pace. Some students are with LAMP for an hour a week, and some students are with us five full days a week, depending on what the individual can cope with. To relieve anxiety when starting LAMP, students have a transition period where they get to ease into school, possibly only doing one subject for a few months before more are added. This approach means that student anxieties are lessened, and they can get to know LAMP at their own pace.
The formality of traditional school can cause a lot of anxiety, hierarchies create barriers and foster inequality. That’s why at LAMP, students address staff by their first names, allowing for a more relaxed and approachable atmosphere. This familiarity can contribute to a greater sense of comfort and reduce anxiety when interacting with teachers. It can encourage students to feel more comfortable seeking help, asking questions, or discussing their concerns with their teachers. This open dialogue promotes a supportive learning environment and facilitates tailored support for anxious and autistic students.
At LAMP, homework is student lead, they can have homework if they want it, but it is never forced. All the required learning happens during class time. Homework often comes with deadlines, expectations, and academic pressures. For anxious and autistic individuals who may already experience heightened anxiety, the added pressure of completing assignments within a specific timeframe can feel overwhelming. Fear of not meeting expectations or the possibility of making mistakes can contribute to anxiety.
These are just a few of the steps that we take as an organisation to help our young people tackle their anxiety school. We could keep going for a long time, we didn’t even mention Ripley, our gorgeous school dog! She’s always available for cuddles for anyone who is having a sad or anxious day.
We want LAMP to feel like a safe and nurturing place for all of our students.