At BeyondAutism we are leading autism education. The word education is of itself interesting: the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, teaching, especially at school or university; an enlightening experience. Our aim, through the approach we provide, is that autistic children and young adults will identify and fulfil their own aspirations. To achieve this, we are breaking down any barriers to learning, and ensuring choice and opportunity underpin the decisions they make about their own lives. This will mean different things for different children and young . Working together with partners beyond our own schools and services we aim to ensure that many more autistic children and young adults access an education which empowers a life full of choice, independence and opportunity.
Supportive learning environments
For many autistic children and young adults accessing their local school or college, it is crucial that the learning environment is supportive of their needs – this means that governors and senior leaders are aware and attuned, that teachers are skilled, that ancillary staff are aware and mindful, and that the physical environment is accessible and inclusive. Most importantly, it means that the learner is at the heart of discussions around their needs and ways to make education inclusive for them.
Throughout World Autism Acceptance Week, we’ll be sharing stories, resources and new content to encourage you all to take positive steps to drive forward autism education and break down the barriers for autistic learners, and their families.
Since 2020 we have set out to reduce school placement breakdown, increase employability, develop the life skills to live an ideal week, increase family resilience and confidence, and to ensure communities are supported to include autistic people. The difference we want to see is viewed through an education lens, creating school and college experiences that launch the lives of autistic children/young adults.
The steps we’re taking
We are determined to listen to and amplify autistic voice, particularly the voice of autistic children and young adults for whom traditional communication methods are challenging. This takes time and planning, it takes creativity and a willingness to persevere, it takes access to technology and augmented, adapted communication tools, it takes skill, and most of all it takes an absolute desire to hear.
Across the country we are reducing school placement breakdown, through outreach support, training, and launching the BeyondAutism Fast Responder® Service. We are empowering schools to understand and manage behaviour, and to remove barriers to learning. Children report being happier in school and teachers report that they are able to apply new strategies from a position of better understanding the autistic learner.
Launching our Employability Toolkit has had a direct impact on the outcomes for learners as they enter the workplace. Working towards this, we are developing an employability curriculum – teaching the fundamental skills needed to be successful at work, built around individual personality and aspirations.
We support family resilience, knowledge, and confidence, through our Early Years’ Service, our home-school support, our training packages, and our free resources. At BeyondAutism Early Years’ families learn together in small groups, with their children, automatically creating a support network and peer group. This is a free service for families, and we rely on donations, grants, and sponsorship to provide this vital start. In the early years of a child’s life communication, engagement and play are key for families, enabling parents to make very different decisions, directly impacting their child’s outcomes.
Lives of choice, independence and opportunity
Breaking the cycle of prejudice so that autistic children and young adults have choice and opportunity, drives everything that we do when accessing the community, delivering our school and college curricula, increasing employability and supporting families and the professionals who work with them. Leading autism education is underpinned by person-centred planning, skilled knowledgeable staff, support for families, inclusive classrooms and breaking down the barriers to learning.
There is still much that needs to be done. The statistics show that exclusion rates amongst pupils with SEN are 4.5 times higher than those without¹, and absence rates for learners with an EHCP are almost double that of their peers². Classrooms must be more accessible, staff must be better supported in working with autistic learners, and society as a whole must be more accommodating to neurodivergence. We are working in partnership with parents, with local authorities, with all school settings and with our communities to ensure that autistic children and young adults access an education which empowers a life full of choice, independence and opportunity.
This World Autism Acceptance Week we’re asking you to consider ways in which you can take steps to do the same. As a society, we need to transcend differences in approach and work together to ensure that we are taking the time to hear the voices of autistic learners, using the resources and support that is already available to improve the education experience for all autistic children and young adults.
1. National Statistics (2022). Permanent exclusions and suspensions in England. Accessed online: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/permanent-and-fixed-period-exclusions-in-england
2. National Statistics (2022). Pupil absence in schools in England: autumn and spring terms 2021/22. Accessed online: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/pupil-absence-in-schools-in-england-autumn-and-spring-terms