The education system is not flexible enough in its approach to children with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) and teachers are not given sufficient guidance or scope to adapt the National Curriculum to include the social and life skills of pupils with autism. These are the findings of a new report by the Autism Education Trust (AET), led by Dr Kerstin Wittemeyer of the Autism Centre of Education and Research at the University of Birmingham.
The study goes on to argue that schools should “aim higher for their students with autism” to ensure that adult outcomes are positive, in terms of academic achievement and/or emotional wellbeing.
“Given the challenges that individuals with autism face in adult life, it is vital that their education sufficiently prepares them for those challenges and, crucially, is planned with them in order that they are offered the best chance of achieving their desired outcomes”, says Dr Wittemeyer.
Over 1,000 contributions were received by the report’s authors from stakeholders, who included adults and children with autism, their parents/carers and education practitioners.
The report recommends that schools and other service providers should make every effort to consult all young people with autism about their desired outcomes for adult life. The Department for Education should also provide written guidance on how teachers can find the right balance between teaching academic skills to pupils with autism and teaching these children skills that fall outside of the National Curriculum, such as independent living skills.
The report also argues that schools should include time within their “flexible” curriculum for pupils with autism to develop their self-awareness and to discuss their diagnosis, should they wish to.
Local authorities should support the development and training of a member of staff to work as an “autism expert” across a network of mainstream schools, with the longer-term objective of employing an autism expert in every mainstream school.
The report, Educational provision and outcomes for people on the autism spectrum, can be downloaded from: