Problematic Professional: Sue Larkey

Sue Larkey is an educator located in Sydny, Australia. She was born in  1968. She says she is a highly qualified educator but with no information on her qualifications. She has taught autistic children in mainstream and special education schools. She has earned a masters degree in special education and is currently working on a doctorate in education. The only University that was listened is Flindlers University, so it is assumed this is where she studied for both graduate programs. She has won the Naturally Autistic 2013 international award for community contribution. She has written numerous books about autistic children. She is not autistic herself nor does she have autistic children. There is not enough information to give her a proper bio.

She preaches behavior support and seems to support neurodiversity. She is complicated so this blog will be quite long. She even goes as far as to interview Yenn Purkis.

She has online courses and webinars, a blog, and a podcast.


Sue Larkey has a podcast that has over 70 episodes. They range over various topics. We will examine three of these episodes.

Interview with Yenn Purkis

Yenn is a treasure to the neurodiversity movement. Yenn has written several book on the subject. They has been interviewed by Larkey for the podcast.
Yenn wrote the book “The Wonderful World of Work.” Larkey seems to be very respectful as Yenn speaks about the neurodiversity movement and the workplace. Finds Yenn to be inspirational, as we know can be dangerous if used improperly.
Larkey stresses that Yenn has a diagnosis of “Aspergers syndrome” as we know is no longer in the DSM. Larkey supported Yenn with their name change as they came out as non-binary.
Larkey uses some PFL as the autistic community does not like. Yenn talks about deficit thinking and that really limits people. Strength thinking helps people thrive. Yenn says an early diagnosis is a good thing only if it is met with strength thinking. With this, the book they are taking about how autistic adult can thrive in the workplace.
Larkey does admit that secondary school has a deficit way of thinking and that discourages a lot of teens. She does say that positive identity while being autistic is important. Yenn responds with people should be reading blogs and other content by #actuallyautistic content creators.
With how Larkey talks to Yenn, she is creating inspiration port of a kind. She keeps on saying how Yenn inspires her. Disabled people are not there for your inspiration.
Then Larkey brought up Temple Grandin. For those of you who do not know, Temple Grandin’s beliefs about autistic people are not effective or ethical in the eyes of the autistic community. Yenn was super polite and handled that well.

Larkey’s Personal Experience of Not Being Able to Talk

This episode of the podcast is short but she says that she understands what its like to be nonverbal because she could not talk for a whole month. Her vocal cord was paralyzed. This trivializes the experience of a person who is unable to speak at all. She calls her experience “amazing.”

Larkey concentrates on the experience of the family, not even the nonverbal person. She said she didn’t like how her family had to change how they communicated with her.

Her friend made her PCS cards. She said people would predict what she would say. She does get a little insight on what frustrations nonverbal people go through when they use PCS cards.

She knew she was going to be able to speak again. This is not what nonverbal people go through. How they communicate is how they communicate. Some people prefer nonverbal communication because verbal speech can be overwhelming. Disabled people are constantly accommodating non-disabled people.

I was nonverbal until I was 5. I could lipread. People would talk about me like I was not in the room.They could not figure out how I knew what was being said when I could not hear.  My form of communication was forbidding in my house. I used American Sign Language to communicate. I learned it at school.

I do think she learned something but she did not learn what she needed to learn. She needs to listen to nonverbal people. She thinks she gets us but she has a lot to learn.

Online Courses and Webinars

Larkey says that her online courses help parents and teachers teach autistic children and make a difference by :
  • increasing student engagements and participation
  • develop positive behavior support programs
  • accredited training by world experts
  • transform from feeling overwhelmed to confident

Larkey offers free webinars:

10 strategies to increase engagement and participation

Schedules Send home timetables. Have a visual timetable up in the classroom. If there is going to be a change, let the student know in advance and indicate on the timetable/schedule.
“Processing TimeAllow them time to process information (verbal and visual) before you repeat instructions, questions or take away visual information.
This is good information. There is nothing more frustrating than people not giving an autistic person enough time to process language. 
“sEt up for SuccessMost students on the spectrum have a huge fear of failure and this can be seen as “perfectionism”, “constant rubbing out/crossing out work” or “doing NO work”. Remind them that it is OK to make mistakes. Role model making mistakes on the board, show students work that isn’t “perfect”, not the neatest, has crossed out work and incorrect answers will reinforce you are happy with mistakes.
“Communication Slow it Down, Limit instructions, Break it Down! Remember they are literal and often misunderstand your ‘inferred’ meaning.
Do be literal. This communication section does feed into stereotypes. Know the child you are working with. This feeds into the thinking that no autistic child understand idioms.  
“Timeframes Schedules and timers tell the child how long and when they are going to have to do an activity. Timers allow us to pre-warn the child. They help answer many of the questions these children have: What is happening? What order? What time? What is next? How long? Repeat Activities Most people with an ASD love repetition, whether it is a DVD, movement, conversation or activity. Giving students repetitive routines and activities helps reduce stress as they know what to expect.
This is good information. This allows the child to prepare themselves for transitioning to a different activity. 
“Repeating activities allows success, build independence and increases confidence.
This feeds into stereotyping. Know the child you are working with. 
“UnderstandingStudents on the spectrum are VISUAL learners. Sometimes they can repeat exactly what you said but do not understand. The more visuals you use, the higher the understanding.
Again, this feeds into stereotyping. I know people who are visual, kinetic and auditory learners. They are all autistic. Know the child. Every autistic child is different. 
“Motivate/RewardUse their “favourite” activities to motivate them. It is best to use lots of short rewards rather than waiting a whole day. The most effective is a quick activity, then quick reward. For example: 30 minutes work, 5 minutes building rather than work all day = 20 minutes building”
This is problematic. This is ABA. Make the activity fun if you think it is important for the child to do. Make it so they want to do it and they do not need to manipulated to do it. 

What is ASD and Understanding the DSM-5

“1. Students with an ASD don’t have to look at you all the time.
Reason: They find looking and listening at the same time hard to do.
Not always true. Looking at the person who is speaking can be overwhelming and concentrating on the person’s face can be louder than what the person is saying. 
“2. Give them time to answer any of your questions.
Reason: They have slower processing time. Sometimes it can take them up to a minute to formulate the answer in the correct sequence.
Not every autistic person has slower processing time. It depends on the person. Know the person you are working with. This is a stereotype. 
“3. If they feel pressured they will answer with stock standard answers.
Reason: They know it will get them out of trouble quickly. This may include: “I don’t know”, “yes”, “maybe” and often this isn’t their true answer!
This is another sterotype. It depends on the person. Sometimes the person may not be able to answer. Some give those standard answers but not everyone does. 
“4. They often don’t “generalise” information between people and places.
 Reason: Homework for teacher ‘x’ is in the yellow basket but for teacher ‘y’ it’s to be placed in the green basket.
This is another stereotype. Know the person you are working with. 
“5. They find organisation of their school equipment very difficult.
Reason: They are best with one folder with everything inside. Limit the number of pencils, pens etc.
Some autistics can be really organized and some are not so organized. It depends on the person and if  they have other neurodivergencies. This is a generaization about all autistics and it simply is not true. 
“6. Limit their choices and be very specific with choices.
 Reason: They find choices overwhelming and are often concerned with making wrong choice due to their difficulty with problem solving.
This is an ABA method. This is to trick the child into believing they have a choice. Giving a child a choice between two things that they clearly do not want to do is manipulation. Give a full array of choices. 
“7. Be as clear, concise and concrete as possible.
Reason: People with an ASD have difficulty with abstract thinking.
This is another stereotype. Many autistic people can think critically and abstractly. Know the person you are working with. 
“8. Avoid verbal overload.
 Reason: They are visual learners and verbal information takes them longer to process and retain.
Not all autistics are visual learners. This is a stereotype. Know how the person you are working with learns. 
“9. Avoid verbal arguments by redirecting them to what they should be doing. Eg “Start your work”.
Reason: They often enjoy verbal arguments.
This one makes no sense. There are plenty of autistics who hate confrontations and hate arguments. If the task is tailored to the person, there should be no issue. 
“10. People with an ASD need positive feedback to know they are on the right track.
 Reason: Because of their fear of failure and they want to be Mr Perfect.”
The fear of being wrong comes from being forced to mask by parents who are embarrassed and do not want autistic children to be themselves. 

Strategies to teach children who learn and engage differently in early childhood

Mat Time Strategies
  • opportunities to move
  • know where to go when the child needs space
  • come to mat last
  • pre warn about questions/activities/answers
  • give a job-turn on the music, turn the pages of a books
  • other child sit in chairs next to child in wheelchair
These are all great strategies
Cutting strategies
  • gross motor/core
  • what scissors
  • what to cut
  • use interests
  • stort activies/last step
  • multisensory- check the texture
These are all great strategies
Seperation anxiety
  • prewarning
  • routine
  • visual
  • timer
  • have routine 2 activities they lovce
  • leave them engaged in something they love
  • sensory tools
These are all great strategies
5 ideas to try to ensure learning is fun
  1. choose the time of day when your child is most happy and relaxed to focus on activities
  2. stop the activity while the child is sitll having fun, before the child has had enough
  3. make activities quick and fun and move onto another quick and fun activity (greast so far)
  4. quick activities = quick reward This is a manipulation technique IE. ABA
  5. Add on one more part of each time
Most of these are good in this webinar. Using the reward system is manipulation and the activity should be tailored to the specific child. 

How Teacher assistants can help support students who learn and engage differently

First Identify challenges for these 3 people:

  1. Non verbal classica autism, italian background, never been to school
  2. Teacher: straight out of college, 25 children in classroom
  3. The teachers aid
Think of a child you know, what makes them neurodiverse?
Using the same student. describe abilities and challenges in the following ares:
  1. social
  2. communication
  3. emotional
  4. behavior
  5. motor skills
  6. sensory
  7. executive functioning
  8. IQ
What is the number one strength and weakness?
This webinar needs to go into the bin. This is all based on what the teachers aid experiences with the child. This has nothing to do with what the child experiences. The use of IQ is ableist because that is no the only type of intelligence. Focusing on behavior can lead to PTSD due to ABA techniques. They use the term neurodiverse to draw in the autistic community. This is a smoke screen. 

11 key strategies for supporting children to learn at home

☐ Quiet and Calm Position to Learn in the Home
Depends on the child. Some do better with some background noise. 
☐ Writing. Does your child need pencil grips?
There are pencil grips to help children with fine motor difficulties
☐ Organisation of Equipment by Only Using Essentials
organization can help but not everyone. It depends on the child
☐ Quiet Area for Downtime
This is essential for sensory breaks
☐ Teacher Assistant / Parent / Carer to Support
The child needs support from the right person
☐ Use of Schedules / Timers / Timetables
this is important so the child knows what to expect
☐ Always Carry Notepad and Pen
not necessary. Not everything needs to be written work
☐ Reading – Have you got good resources?
There are resources online
☐ Scheduled Break Times
movement breaks are important in any setting
☐ Regular Toilet/Drink Breaks
bodily functions need to be taken into considerations
☐ Sensory Tools to Calm and Focus
A majority of autistic children can focus better if they have a fidget. 

Managing challenging behaviors to create calm classrooms

What is the student trying to communicate through thier behavior?
Behavior is communication
Has the student understood the words you have used?
It is better to speak on the child’s level. Lessens fustration. 
Could the behaviour be sensory?
The behavior could be a stim
If so, what sensory tools can we use?
Having sensory tools handy is important
Could the behaviour be a sign of anxiety?
It is very possible. Looking for why the behavior happens is very important. The child is trying to communicate
Does this behaviour happen in a range of places? Home, school etc.
Certian places could be overwhelming
How can we replace the behaviour?
This is problematic. If you change what is triggering the behavior then it will not happen. Support the child, do not try to change the child. 
What strategies have been tried?
It is important to use ETHICAL strategies, not ones to try to change the child 
What strategies have worked in past?
Self reflection is important
How will we reward change in behaviour?
Manipulation is not the way to treat a child. ABA is abusive. 
Are any structures, visuals, adaptations, timers etc. required? Is this a battle we really need to have?
Pick your battles. If the child is uncomfortable they will try to communicate it to you, a trusted adult, any way possible. It is your job to figure out what the trigger is. Accommodations are a must. Trying to make a child appear neurotypical is ableist and should never be done. Never force a child to mask. 

Larkey’s Accredited Online Courses:

These courses are quite expensive so I cannot sit through them as they are 5 hours each and I cannot afford it. She does give an outline. There are elements from both the ABA side and acceptance side. She is quite confusing.

Sue Larkey Online Course ($165)

This is a 5 hour online course.
Lesson 1: 
  • What is autism spectrum- learning styles, schedules, timers, etc. She says its good for preschool, home, community
  • What is PDA?
  • 10 key strategies for setting the classroom up for success
Lesson 2:
  • How to put items from lesson 1 in place.
  • Understanding autistic girls and why the strategies need to be different
  • 10 strategies for understanding “kids with ASD” for home and school
  • Why “kids with ASD do what they do”
  • Executive functioning
  • Comorbidities
Lesson 3: 
  • using visuals, motivators, timers, routines
  • toilet timing not training
  • understanding processing
  • why autistic children need visuals
Lesson 4: 
  • “embracing difference to make a difference”- helping the community and family understand autistic kids
  • teaching play
Lesson 5: 
  • behavior- the difference between a sensory meltdown, a behavior meltdown and a tantrum
  • what strategies to use, being proactive

Dr. Tony Attwood Online Course ($184)

Lesson 1
  • what is autism ?
  • DSM 5 diagnostic criteria
  • Girls “with aspergers syndrome”
Lesson 2
  • cognitive abilities
  • learn to read a face, socializing, ect
  • academic success very important for self esteem
  • visualizations, learning by demonstration, processing time
  • challenges for people learning to learning to read and math
Lesson 3
  • cognitive abilities
  • fear of making a mistake, “weak central coherence”
  • qualities needed in a teacher
  • sensory sensitivity in the classroom and playground
  • challenging behavior
  • differentiates aspergers from autism (its all autism and he is hanging onto that label)
Lesson 4
  • anxiety “people with ASD are good at worrying”
  • “how to manage anxiety in a constructive way” (masking)
  • They need to learn to how to read facial expressions in others and identify feelings
  • “they need to express emotion themselves”
  • “fix the feelings”
Lesson 5
  • friendships-teach the child how to make friends
  • talents qualities of autistic people that need to be recognized for employment

Sue Larkey Early Childhood Course ($165)

5 hour course
Module 1

  • identifying the children who engage differently
  • make a child engage

Module 2

  • examine different learning styles
  • Helping families get a diagnosis and grief cycle (parents should not be grieving a child that hasn’t died)

Module 3

  • communication- parents and child’s communication

Module 4

  • where to start

Module 5

  • learning how to play “appropriately” (play should not be pathologized)

Module 6

  • sensory
  • strategies to help children with sensory differences

Module 7

  • proactive behavior support
  • positive behavior support

Emotional Regulation Masterclass ($97)

  • create a calm classroom
  • 15 lessons of strategies
  • 74 pages of printables
  • Does not allude into what strategies entail

Teacher Assistant Online Course ($49)

  • Starts off by calling teachers assistants angels (hero complex)
  • TA has a complex role, furthers the hero complex

Parent/carers Online Course- learning at home ($49)

  • promoting teacher assistance course
  • offers to answer questions
  • no real info on the course

Partnership with Attwood

After giving very little information on herself, she does give a lot of information on her partner, Tony Attwood. Attwood presents all her courses on her website.

Habit of Silencing Autistic People

Larkey has a Facebook page and group for parents. Screens shots about Larkey silencing #actuallyautistic people. Let the screen shots do the talking.
Sue Larkey is one of those complicated professionals. She states that autism should be accepted. This is exactly what autistic people want but at the same time she uses a reward based system to manipulate compliance. This is an ABA method. She is what we call a centrist or a fence sitter. She has learned a lot about autistic people and can learn but as she practices now, she is a problem until she realizes behaviorism is dangerous.

One thought on “Problematic Professional: Sue Larkey

  1. Thank goodness people have come to realise that Sue Larkey is problematic. Unfortunately her marketing team have done well to promote her to parents and as an accredited course provider for NESA – teacher professional development programs. I have deliberately gone to her workshops over the years – nothing has changed. She has a good presentation with a refined script to follow. For the newbies in this space she seems amazing as she is convincing. I've been questioning her quals and experience for years. Yes, she promotes ABA techniques but now avoids using the term directly.


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