Empowering People, Launching lives

A different approach is needed to tackle exclusion rates in autistic children

Author: Hannah Smith BCBA, Fast Responder


30th March 2022 | 3 mins read

This week we’re challenging people to think about how they can help change some of the national statistics that exist for autistic children and young adults.

One of those statistics is around school exclusion. Recent government figures show that autistic children are twice as likely to be excluded from school, either for a fixed period or permanently, compared with children who have no special educational needs.[1] This is reinforced further by a survey from the National Autistic Society, where 20% of parents reported their child had been informally excluded at least once in the last two years.[2]

We believe a different approach is needed to tackle this. Our new Fast Responder pilot is exploring whether earlier intervention, with the right support, could be the solution. 

We’ve been working with schools across London to trial a point-of-crisis service that steps in at the early signs of difficulties, before exclusion, to understand where the challenges are and what the right support could look like for that child.

20% of parents reported their child had been informally excluded at least once in the last two years

We believe that by acting quickly and implementing simple strategies that support the school and family, we can change the long-term outcomes for individuals, and empower schools through training staff to have the knowledge and confidence to support the child.  

We’ll be publishing a full report at the end of the pilot later this year. For now, though, we’ve got 5 top tips from the work we’re doing that could help your school.


1. Remember that behaviour is a form of communication

  • A child or young adult is communicating something through the behaviour they display. Take the time to understand what it is they are trying to tell you, so that you know the best way to support them.  
  • One thing you can do is to look at the function of the behaviour rather than what it looks like, to get to the bottom of why that behaviour might be happening 
  • Is it to escape something, to get attention from someone, because they might want access to an item or it might be providing with some sensory input? These are known as the 4 functions of behaviour 
  • You can also use ABC forms (Antecedent, Behaviour, Consequence) to identify patterns, and considers what is happening before and after the behaviour that might cause it to happen again in the future. This can allow you to make adjustments to the environment to support the individual 
  • You can learn more about the functions of behaviour and ABC data here


2. Always involve the child or young adult in your discussions; make sure you get their views  

  • Where you can, sit down with them to get their thoughts on being at school. Find out what works for them and what doesn’t 
  • Build this into a person-centred plan (PCP) that will help everyone working with that individual understand the support they need to be able to thrive at school 
  • You can download our PCP template here


 3. Start off by building a strong relationship with the child or young adult 

  • Prioritise building a rapport with them; engage in their interests and what is important to them 
  • Extend this relationship out to the parents, so that you can work collaboratively  
  • Create a positive association with the classroom environment. For example by allowing time in the class to engage in favourite activities 
  • Allow time for check ins at the start of the day and check outs at the end of the day; you could use visuals to support this e.g. a scale from 1-5 


4. Allow the child or young adult access to their interests, and where possible incorporate these into their learning 

  • This will help strengthen the positive association they have with the classroom and remove some of the barriers they may have to learning   


5. Consider what sensory needs they might have, and give them access to movement or sensory breaks where they need them 


We hope some of these tips will inspire you to try something different in your setting. We’d love to hear about any success stories; why not write us a blog that others can learn from. If you’re interested in finding out more about the pilot, please do get in touch:  

The Fast Responder project has been made possible by a grant from City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation’s charity funder, which gives out over £25 million every year to good causes across the capital.  


[1] Department for Education. Permanent and fixed-period exclusion in England: 2018 to 2019. Accessed at: Permanent and fixed-period exclusions in England: 2018 to 2019 – GOV.UK (

[2] National Autistic Society School Report 2021. Clifford Chance. Accessed at:

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