Throughout England, 71% of students with #autism attend mainstream schools. Unfortunately, many of these schools are unequipped and uneducated about how to best support the needs of students with autism.
Not only can this put them off from pursuing further education prospects, but it can result in them not achieving their potential.
Fortunately, when it comes to further education, more choice and flexibility is available, making it easier for students with autism to thrive.
Claire Cookson will lead DFN Project SEARCH to get 20,000 young adults with learning difficulties and autism into full-time paid jobs over the next decade: DFN PROJECT SEARCH APPOINTS NEW CEO TO SPEARHEAD GROWTH Claire Cookson has been appointed as the… https://t.co/nMYfFSgdfb pic.twitter.com/lUBy241Z43— FE News - The #FutureofEducation News Channel (@FENews) April 16, 2020
Current UK legislation isn’t enough
Currently, there are no requirements for teachers in mainstream schools to have experience or qualifications in teaching students with autism and teacher training courses don’t usually cover it. The only regulation that is in place is that every mainstream school must have a designated Specialist Education Needs Coordinator (SENCO) who can inform relevant staff about the needs of students.
What this means is that it’s left to headteachers and SENCOs to enable all teachers to support students with autism, but this will vary between schools and staff, causing a lack of much-needed stability for students with autism.
Communication is key
Students with autism and their parents often report feeling frustrated with the lack of support in schools and the majority of teachers agree that they don’t have the training or resources to adequately teach students with autism. An honest conversation between teachers, students, and parents can help. Students with autism can voice what they need or what they struggle with, parents can offer solutions, and then it’s up to teachers to do their part.
As more choice is available in further education, students can look at finding educators who have experience teaching students with autism and make choices based on the support they can offer. Reach out to support groups, professionals, and other families with children who have already entered higher education to find what did and didn’t work for them.
Understanding and meeting the needs of students with autism
People with autism thrive when their learning environment is predictable with structure and a clear routine. They’re generally visual learners and need information and instructions presented in this way to understand and retain it.
One easy way teachers can meet this is by using slideshow presentations with pictures and videos whilst talking through the content for other students in the classroom that aren’t visual learners. Students with autism will often struggle in social situations as they find it hard to read emotions and body language.
Teachers should support them to work independently or with one or two friends, as opposed to large groups. Large groups and classrooms can bring a lot of noise too, which makes it hard for students with autism to concentrate on anything else, so teachers should find a quiet area for them to work and be aware of the overall noise level in the room.
Unfortunately, it often falls on students with autism and their families to get adequate support from schools. When entering higher education more choice and control becomes available. Reach out to others and research to find teachers who have experience and can support students with autism to help them thrive.