The National Autistic Society recently published its School Report Survey, looking at the challenges faced by autistic children within the education system in England. Simon Cannon, Behaviour Support Specialist for Aspens' Family and Specialist Support Services, responds to the findings and discusses how the team is working to improve the school experience for autistic pupils.

"One of the key findings from the National Autistic Society’s recent School Report survey is that 74% of parents and carers of autistic children did not believe that their child’s needs were being met by their school.  In addition, it was reported that one in four autistic children are having to wait over three years for school support.  The NAS concluded that families are left “exhausted and on the edge of crisis”.

Sadly, this is an all too familiar story for the children, young people and families that we work alongside in the Family and Specialist Support Services Team.  As a former teacher and school leader myself, it is heart-breaking to hear first hand the experiences of many young autistic people and their families when asked about their own school experiences. 

A child’s school years should be formative and exciting where happy memories are made and cherished.  Whilst it would be unfair to suggest that the school experience of every autistic child in every school is a traumatic one, the findings of the NAS School Report survey are stark.

There may, however, be some light at the end of the tunnel. Firstly, we are led to believe that within the Government’s forthcoming SEN Review, there are plans to deepen teachers’ knowledge and understanding of autism.  The National Autistic Society are calling on Nadim Zahawi, Secretary of State for Education, to use the SEN Review as an opportunity to make the sorts of radical changes that are needed to dramatically improve the outcomes for all autistic children so that they can achieve to their full potential in school.  The NAS petition can be signed here.

Secondly, within the Family and Specialist Support Services Team, myself and a number of colleagues are working with the Social Communication Team from West Sussex on the Autism in Schools Programme.  This county-wide initiative, involving schools, parents and carers, has been set up to improve the school experience of autistic pupils through interactive teaching sessions, mini-forums, staff training as well supporting schools in gaining the Autism Awareness Award.  A number of schools from the authority have been keen to get involved and crucially, when this project was run in other authorities, parents reported improved outcomes for their children; fewer exclusions and better relationships with schools."

Simon Cannon

Behaviour Support Specialist

Family and Specialist Support Services


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