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Special lift

Over the weekend, I had a shopping day with my mum, and one of the places we visited was Hammersmith shopping centre.

Many of you will know that my son is on the spectrum. He was officially diagnosed last year aged 21!

When he was little, we regularly visited the shopping centre, which had a glass lift. My son called it the ‘Special lift!’ “Going special lift Mummy!” he used to say and we would go up and down in that lift.


During this trip, I noticed that the special lift is still there, despite major building work!

Anyway, my son’s other ‘thing’ at that age was Thomas the Tank Engine. He loved lining up trains and even had a ‘melt down’ in the part-time pre-school that he attended if he wasn’t handed his train on arrival!

His drawings and paintings were also full of lines.

He was always running up and down the hallway.

One of his ‘things’ now is that every Saturday morning he takes part in the local 5k park run.

Can you see where I’m going with this?

Vertical/horizontal schemas!!!

My son was my case study on a university course I did on schemas around this time. I didn’t pick up the link to autism. Even so, with my education hat on, I always knew there was ‘something.’

I found this article by Tina Bruce on autism and schemas in Nursery World.

Observations can be so powerful!

I shared a condensed version of this blog on the Keep it Simple Planning Group (KiSP©) on Facebook.

My observations have encouraged other colleagues to be reflective and they have shared these comments:

Elizabeth Thomas:  “My youngest was diagnosed with autistic spectrum condition a couple of weeks ago. These things sound very familiar! Very schematic play when he was younger and now it’s all lego and minecraft.”

Rebecca Martland: “I delivered a training on understanding schemas on Thursday and this topic came up. We were debating how to balance children’s exploratory impulse/feeling of security that comes with schema behaviour with children becoming stuck/reliant on those behaviours in order to feel safe, particularly children on the autistic spectrum. On the one hand offering opportunities and resources to support a particular behaviour and on the other trying to break a controlling ‘habit’ or anxiety that is having a detrimental effect on a person’s life (OCD was mentioned).

Belinda Johnson: “That is really interesting Rebecca, I had that discussion with other childminders at training about schemas recently too. My grandson, aged almost 4, is very interested, almost obsessed by, lines, routes, maps, trains, bridges, sections of wooden train track, he documents them, in his own way, in his notebook, and will let me know which types of ‘joining track’ he needs etc. I am just watching to see how this develops . . .”

Dawn Nasser: “What a great discussion and sharing of information. Thanks all and especially you Laura Henry for ensuring we are always reflecting and always in pursuit of quality and excellence for the children. Great article. Nursery World has some brilliant stuff in its archive”.

There is still so much to be debated on this subject and how we can always, respectfully support children and keep them safe.

It is therefore important to continually observe children, to make sure that we can personalise the learning environment to their ongoing developmental and learning needs. It is imperative that as educators we recognise the importance of how theory has an impact on children’s holistic development.

There is a Webinar, linked to the importance of continually observing children.

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  • Catriona Nason

    Very nice article Laura. I think most parents would agree ‘they knew something was not right’ – This is why its essential to listen to parents.

  • angela ennis

    this is great, i have been.discussing schemas with a parent recently and.it has.helped her to understand her toddlers behaviour more. I dont think schemas are given enough attention so the more help we get to understand them the.better. Thank you Laura.

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