Top tips for Autism professionals – Overcoming the barriers to inclusion
In the academic year 2011 to 2012 2,750 pupils on the autism spectrum were given a fixed period exclusion. That’s an 11% increase on the previous year. What can be done to reduce the risk of exclusion for pupils on the autism spectrum?
There is no one quick-fix set of strategies that schools can follow to reduce the number of school exclusions. However, schools may like to consider the following tips when planning how best to support a pupil on the autism spectrum:
1. Get to know the individual. Every person on the autism spectrum is unique, therefore a ‘one size fits all’ approach is inappropriate. Investing time into trying to understand how an individual sees and experiences the world will benefit not only the individual, but also those who come into contact with them. Observe and listen.
2. Working in partnership with the individual on the autism spectrum, parents, and other professionals can benefit all.
Parents are experts on their own child.Schools should recognise this and help to build a more complete picture of the individual and ensure consistent support. Professionals can also collaborate with colleagues from other schools and professionals from other fields, including specialist autism support (Autism Outreach Team).
3. Address issues around stress and anxiety.
Schools can do this by:
• identifying what triggers high levels of stress and anxiety and the resulting behaviour.
• recognising the strategies individuals may already use to manage their own stress and anxiety, but not trying to eliminate them.
• providing the individual with ways of identifying their own rising levels of stress and strategies to manage them.
• creating a sanctuary – a safe place – somewhere in the school that the individual can
4. Reasonable Adjustments need to be made to school policies and practices. Schools have a duty to do this under the Equality Act 2010. Schools need to take positive steps to ensure that disabled pupils, including those on the autism spectrum, can fully participate in all aspects of school life. A school’s behaviour policy should make allowance for behaviour which is a consequence of a pupil’s disability, rather than disobedience. A ‘one size fits all’ policy, fixing a standard penalty for a particular action, is therefore both unfair and inappropriate. Reviewing all practices and policies will help a school to ensure that it does not discriminate.
5. All school staff should have autism awareness training to gain a better understanding of how to work with children on the autism spectrum. Staff need to be alert to the warning signs or triggers that if left unheeded, could lead to potentially explosive situations. This includes support staff and lunchtime supervisors, who play a crucial role in overseeing unstructured parts of the school day.