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Autism and education

As of 2023, there were at least 180,000 autistic pupils in schools in England, with many still awaiting a diagnosis. 73% of these pupils are educated in mainstream schools.  


Many autistic pupils will have additional needs. These might be linked to social communication and social interaction or be specific learning difficulties associated with a co-occurring condition, such as dyslexia or ADHD. Some may also have an intellectual disability, which means they may face challenges learning alongside peers without additional support.   

In a school or college, there will be a designated person for special educational needs. This is the Special Educational Needs Coordinator or SENCo. They oversee the special educational needs resources, plans and identification of SEN within their schools. They are also often responsible for the training of staff in specific types of needs.   

Every pupil in a school should receive high quality teaching as standard. However, where a pupil is struggling due to their additional needs, the SENCo may look to provide SEN Support.

SEN Support is provided by the school to ensure the pupil can achieve at school. It usually includes tried and tested interventions already set up within the school, such as social skills groups, reading interventions or individual mentoring. SEN Support follows the pattern of assess, plan, do, review and works in cycles. The pupil and their parent or carer should expect regular updates to the progress being made.  

When a pupil’s needs cannot be met by SEN Support and additional specialist resources are required, an education, health and care assessment can be requested. This is made to the local authority and is usually done via the SENCo at school. However, a parent can make a direct request to their local authority SEN department if necessary.  

The EHC assessment may lead to an EHC Plan being written and implemented. This is a legal document that outlines the pupil’s strengths, needs, and their outcomes – what does the young person want to achieve? This is then supported by provision which is outlined in the document. The EHCP is a formal document and means the pupil must receive what is documented. Autism is the most common type of special educational need for pupils with an EHCP. 

When looking for support for an autistic pupil, the child’s class teacher and SENCo should be your first step. Additionally, your local authority will also have published information on the support they can offer. BeyondAutism also run specific services to support autistic pupils and their parents and carers. This includes our Outreach service, training, and BeyondAutism Fast Responder® service.

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