Atlass Masterclass Nov 2012

The ATLASS Masterclass 12th – 16th November 2012

Venue:                                   Alcester, Warwickshire UK

Facilitators:                          Michael McCreadie & Andrew McDonnell

Background to the ATLASS Programme

Autism is a disorder of neural development characterised by impaired social interaction and communication and by restricted and repetitive behaviour (APA, 2000) However, epidemiological studies have shown that autism is not, as Kanner first thought, a unique and separate condition occurring in children of otherwise typical development but that it is closely related to a range of developmental conditions.  Given this high degree of variation among individuals on the autism spectrum, appropriate interventions and support will be tailored made on a case by case basis.

The universal characteristic that seems to both moderate and mediate in how autism affects an individual’s well-being and behaviour is stress and coping.  There is now a growing body of evidence to suggest that whilst individuals with autism may experience stress in typical ways, identified stressors and coping styles may vary greatly from that of typically developing individuals (Goodwin, Groden, Velicer, Lipsitt, Baron and Hofmann 2006).

The ATLASS programme takes a more holistic approach acknowledging the person’s behaviour in the context of the service and/or family.  Numerous studies have identified that carer stress plays a significant role in episodes of challenging behaviour and can mediate within a stressful encounter (Baker et al. 1997; Hauser-Cram et al. 2001; Donovan 1989; Dumas et al 1991).  Moreover, Rose & Rose (2005) have noted the impact that stress in staff working for services with people with autism can have a significant impact on how that staff group interpret and respond to challenging behaviour, which ultimately affects the development, implementation and monitoring of both care and education plans.

The ATLASS programme was developed in response to this growing awareness of the role that stress plays in the onset and maintenance of challenging or difficult episodes, and the impact it has on people’s lives.  By acknowledging developmental difference the ATLASS programme teaches practitioners to examine stress and coping in themselves, the people they support and their carers.  To that end the ATLASS approach teaches participants how to develop and implement Stress Reduction Plans for individuals taking account of the transaction between the person, their relationships and their environment.

A growing number of both voluntary and public sector organisations who support and provide services for complex and vulnerable people, are adopting this way of working and conceptualizing systems of support from a stress reduction perspective; as such they have found the ATLASS approach helpful in responding to the needs of individuals, their families and the staff who offer support.

As the ATLASS programme has developed, we have enhanced the training programme and have now developed a Masterclass for organisations to augment their knowledge and understanding of the role of stress in people’s lives.

Aims and Objectives

The ATLASS Masterclass has a number of specific aims to assist course participants in understanding the role of stress in the person’s life within the context of cognition, environment and relationships, and how this contributes to what may be viewed as challenging behaviour.


Specifically course participants will learn:

  • Development within the context of intersubjective experience
  • The underlying cognitive processes of human development and experience
  • The construct of self, the first person account and qualia
  • Low arousal approaches a conceptual framework (McDonnell, 2010)
  • Sensory perceptual differences, how we organise sensory information and it’s role in emotional distress and stress management
  • Stress and coping the role of environment and relationships within the stress transaction
  • The neuro-physiology of a stressful encounter
  • The role of appraisal mechanisms in coping
  • Being in the moment with people we support
  • Being mindful and encouraging mindfulness within support staff
  • Developing the mindful organization


Who should attend?

The masterclass caters for practitioners with extensive experience of working with people with autism from a variety of backgrounds. The programme is designed to develop lead facilitators in participant organisations. As the Masterclass programme has an extensive academic component candidates will be considered after examination of their curriculum Vitae. It is also desirable for organisations to send people in pairs on the programme as it provides additional mutual support.

Duration of Programme

Participants attend a five day induction course; this will be followed by two separate two day follow up sessions over the following year. In these sessions participants will demonstrate the application of their skills to specific individuals.


Follow up dates will take place in Alcester on

17th and 18th January 2013

11th and 12th April 2013



Participants wil be mentored by Michael McCreadie and Andrew McDonnell, via email and video conferencing on a case by case basis.


Participants are required to write a 3000 to 5000 word report on how the ATLASS approach can be further enhanced in their service and how they intend to take the learning from the masterclass and implement change in their services both on an organizational and individual basis.


Prior to the course, participants will be given relevant journal articles and materials which they are expected to read, on-going review will cover the content of these articles.

Proposed Costs

The full cost of the programme (5 day induction and 2 X 2day follow up sessions) is £2200 + VAT per person, non-residential.

Registration on this link