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Autism in special schools

Autism in general special schools and autism-specific special schools.
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© University of Bath

This section addresses two types of special schools: General special schools and autism-specific special schools.

General special schools

General special schools are schools wholly for pupils with Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND). The pupils they cater for vary: some are for pupils with moderate or severe learning difficulties, pupils with behavioural difficulties, pupils with physical difficulties, autistic pupils, or a mixture.

In order to be placed in a special school, a pupil must usually have SEN support or an EHCP, which will describes all of the child’s needs and details all the help required to meet those needs. If your child is not placed in the special school of your choice, the Education Authority (in the UK at least) have to show why they have decided against your choice. The reasons the education authority can use are that:

  • the school would be unsuitable for the child’s age, ability, aptitude and the SEND set out in the statement; and/or
  • that the child’s attendance would be incompatible with the efficient education of the other children with whom the child would be educated,
  • or incompatible with the efficient use of resources.

Residential schools can be for children with varying needs or specific needs. Pupils stay overnight and have a 24-hour curriculum meaning there is support available 24 hours a day. Some have a 52-week placement, others go home at weekends or during the holidays. Parents and the Education Authority should agree any arrangements for a pupil’s contact with their family and for any special help, such as transport.

Autism-specific special schools

As the name would suggest, autism-specific special schools are for those with a primary diagnosis of autism.

The National Autistic Society has 8 autism-specific special schools in the UK.

Special Needs UK also have a find-a-school service which lists all the schools claiming to have an autism specialism.

The obvious advantage is that all the provision can be tailored for those on the autism spectrum. The spectrum is very heterogeneous, of course, so this does not mean all autistic children will have the same educational needs. They also offer the advantage of meeting other children on the autism spectrum, although this will reduce the opportunities to meet other children not on the autism spectrum (during school time at least). Whether or not the child has an associated intellectual disability may impact upon how appropriately the school is equipped to meet their needs.

© University of Bath
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