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Autism in mainstream schools

most autistic children (70%) are in mainstream schools.
Coloured pencils and pencil sharpeners
© University of Bath

Earlier we saw that most autistic children (70%) are in mainstream schools. However being physically in a school is not the same as being included in the school. Inclusion is related to issues of equity and collective belonging. Without a needs‐based focus in educational programme planning, inclusion is nothing more than another label and students will continue to experience exclusion when placed in the regular classroom.

Choosing a mainstream school also offers the advantages of the school being nearby, with the possibility of mixing with the same children and families out-of-school, ease of communication between school and parents, and less travelling. Children can be offered substantial help in mainstream schools both with and without statements of special educational needs (SEN) or EHCPs.

In addition, all schools have more duties to make themselves accessible to, and to provide adjustments for, children and young people with disabilities, and children and young people on the autism spectrum will be classed as disabled for the purposes of these duties. If you want mainstream education as opposed to special school education, the Education Authority (in the UK at least) must place the child in a mainstream school unless they can show that the child’s attendance would cause problems with the education of the other children with whom the child would be educated, and that they have tried to deal with these problems and have failed.

More information about these duties is available on the Autism Education Trust website.

NAS SPELL philosophy

All interventions within NAS Schools are based upon the well established and evidence based NAS SPELL philosophy (evaluated by the Tizzard Centre at the University of Kent). The philosophy was developed through 50 years experience in autism specialist education and is based on ethos of respect for every student and encapsulates best practice and inclusion. SPELL stands for:

  • Structure (to reduce anxiety resulting from rigidity of thought)
  • Positivity (recognise autistic intelligence to enhance self esteem)
  • Empathy (seeking to recognise the perspective of the autistic people)
  • Low arousal (to reduce anxiety related to sensory differences)
  • Links (to other intervention and to the wider community)

Whilst the SPELL philosophy in the classroom may be particularly beneficial for autistic students, it is also likely that everyone in the class will benefit from the SPELL philosophy. It is important to note that adaptations made for specific groups can be universally beneficial for all students.

Autism Wales has a very useful (and free) set of guides for mainstream secondary schools, for mainstream primary schools and in Early Years settings.

© University of Bath
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Good Practice in Autism Education

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