Our family and specialist support team is part of an exciting new national Autism Schools Project team set up to improve the school experience of autistic pupils and drive new and innovative measures.

The team will be working as part of a collaboration with West Sussex County Council’s Autism and Social Communication Team, West Sussex SEND Commissioning Team, the West Sussex Parent Carer Forum and the West Sussex Youth Voice Group to front this pioneering development.

West Sussex is one of two areas in the South East chosen to be part of the national project to improve the support and awareness of autism in schools.

Findings from the recent School Report Survey conducted by the National Autistic Society highlighted that 74% of parents and carers of autistic children did not believe their children’s needs were being met by their school. The Report found that many families have been left “exhausted and on the edge of crisis” with 1 in 4 autistic children waiting over 3 years for school support.

The project aims to address such issues, and will work to encourage cultural change within schools, promote positive autism support and practice, work directly with autistic children and their families, offer individuals the support they need and build strong networks of support for families.

The Aspens team will work directly with small groups of children in the enrolled schools and will appoint Autism Ambassadors made up of children with autistic and neurological conditions, who will create lessons and videos to explain autism to fellow pupils.

Through interactive teaching sessions, forums and staff training, 11 schools in the Crawley and Chichester district will be the first to receive bespoke training. In 2022, a second cohort of 10 West Sussex schools will begin training to expand the service further. Each school will work towards an Autism Awareness Award, which is reaccredited every 3 years to ensure continued progress.

Simon Cannon, Behaviour Support Specialist for Aspens' Family and Specialist Support Services says, “Our team is delighted to be part of this exciting new collaboration to make things better for autistic children in our schools. 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. Initiatives such as the Autism Schools Project are crucial in enabling autistic children to reach their full potential. I believe the project will improve outcomes for children on the autism spectrum; reduce exclusions and create better relationships between schools and families of autistic children. We are absolutely thrilled to be part of this important stepping stone in helping autistic pupils feel included within the school community.”

Further information about our family and support team here and our specialist support team here