Bid to Advance Autism Education; New Report Outlines Key Themes and Practices Schools Can Employ to Improve Provision for Autistic Pupils, Says Sarah Richardson

The Evening Standard (London, England), September 12, 2011 | Go to article overview

Bid to Advance Autism Education; New Report Outlines Key Themes and Practices Schools Can Employ to Improve Provision for Autistic Pupils, Says Sarah Richardson


Byline: Sarah Richardson

ABLUEPRINT for the education of children with autism has been outlined in a new report. Commissioned by the Autism Education Trust (AET), the report identifies key themes and recommended practices which all schools can adopt to improve their provision for pupils on the autistic spectrum.

Written by Professor Tony Charman and a team at the Institute of Education, it outlines "good practice" in autism education, from early years to post-16 schooling.

The report -- from the Institute of Education's Centre for Research in Autism and Education -- outlines key themes and recommended practices which all schools can adopt to improve provision for pupils classified as being on the autistic spectrum.

An estimated one in 100 children are on the autism spectrum, meaning it is important for all schools to be equipped effectively to meet their needs. The researchers examined practices at 16 schools, which had been selected as leaders in the field of autism education, ranging from early years schools to those educating 19-year-old students.

The units studied ranged from special schools and specialist autism schools to autism resource bases within mainstream schools, and they educated autistic children across the ability range. Researchers conducted in-depth interviews with school staff and, in some schools, with pupils, parents and carers.

Professor Charman, who is chairman of autism education at the Institute of Education, said: "Many of the themes that emerged from this research are reflected strongly in the proposals outlined in the Government's Special Educational Needs and Disabilities green paper.

"These include the importance of joint working between education, health, social care and voluntary organisations; the need for staff to have high expectations of all their pupils, to be well-trained, and, crucially, to understand autism at a detailed level."

The findings in the report, What Is Good Practice In Autism Education?, also found that schools were interested in hearing pupils' own opinions of their learning and other school activities.

Schools saw the need for a unique "autism curriculum" rather than simply adapting and individualising the existing curriculum for each pupil. Schools felt a specific autism curriculum should seek to address the social, emotional and communication needs of children and young people with autism and also seek to nurture their independence, the research found.

The AET is funded by the Department for Education to develop national standards in autism education for schools across England.

It aims to deliver autism training to education professionals over two years via networks based on hub schools and services. …

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