Resources to support autistic pupils with exams (guest post)


We are thrilled to feature this guest post. Courtesy of our partners at Network Autism, this is an invaluable selection of articles and resources for school staff on how to best support autistic pupils with exams.

Resources to support autistic pupils with exams

Axcis are proud to sponsor Network Autism

Exams can be a stressful for all students, particularly for autistic children and young people who may struggle with revision and the exams themselves. We have put together a number of articles and resources for school staff on how to best support autistic pupils with exams.

Network Autism have published various articles on supporting autistic students with exams:

The National Autistic Society Exam guidance for parents and education professionals explores some of the particular challenges autistic pupils and students might face during exams, and what may help, looking at:
  • the difficulties for autistic young people
  • making appropriate exam choices
  • exam preparation and revision planning
  • support strategies
  • special arrangements for exams.
Sunderland Autism Outreach Team has produced this advice for staff, parents and students.



Thanks to Network Autism for this wealth of information on supporting autistic pupils with exams. Credit Flickr

There are various blogs giving insight on the difficulties of sitting exams for autistic students:

Main exam boards access arrangements:

The Equality Act 2010 (Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in Northern Ireland) makes it unlawful for responsible bodies, for example schools and authorities, to discriminate against disabled pupils and students. Discrimination includes a failure to make reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils or students to allow them to fully participate in their education, including exams.

Below are links to the access arrangements pages of the main exam boards in the UK:

Further and higher education

The Equality and Human Rights Commission offers guidance on avoiding discrimination of disabled students.  It explains the distinction between making reasonable adjustments to exam arrangements, but not making them to competence standards, such as the admission criteria required to get onto a particular course, or a pass mark to an exam:
  • 5.39 The duty of FE and HE institutions to make reasonable adjustments for disabled students does not apply to a provision, criterion or practice that constitutes a competence standard.

Competence standards para 7.33-7.38, including: 7.38: 

  • Although there is no duty to make reasonable adjustments to the application of a competence standard, such a duty does apply to the process by which competence is assessed. So although an education provider has no duty to alter a competence standard, it needs to consider whether or not a reasonable adjustment could be made to some aspect of the process by which it assesses a competence standard.
  • Example: When assessing the competence standard of a person’s ability to read French it would be a reasonable adjustment to provide a visually impaired student with text in large font (if that was the adjustment the student required).

Competence standards (8.)

  • The application of a competence standard is not a provision, criterion or practice for the purposes of the reasonable adjustments duty and therefore a qualifications body does not have to make reasonable adjustments to the application of a competence standard.
  • The application of a competence standard to a disabled person is not disability discrimination unless it constitutes indirect discrimination.

Access Arrangements:

  • Access Arrangements allow candidates/learners with special educational needs, disabilities or temporary injuries to access the assessment without changing the demands of the assessment.
  • A reasonable adjustment for a particular person may be unique to that individual and may not be included in the list of available Access Arrangements.
  • How reasonable the adjustment is will depend on a number of factors including the needs of the disabled candidate/learner.  An adjustment may not be considered reasonable if it involves unreasonable costs, timeframes or affects the security or integrity of the assessment.
(Many thanks to Andrew Cutting, Specialist Exclusions & Alternative Provision Advice Coordinator for the National Autistic Society for the information on competence standards and access arrangements of this section.)

Autism & Uni

Autism & Uni is a European-funded initiative to help autistic students navigate the transition from school to university.  It has a specific section on how to manage exams.  This is primarily aimed at students, but would be useful for staff too. Universities can also download an online toolkit and best practice guides to support students.

Education Resources

We have also collated more general resources for education professionals to help support autistic students: Back to school: autism resources for school staff.

Network Autism education groups

The following Network Autism groups are for professionals working in nurseries, primary and secondary schools. You can view resources added by other professionals and share in discussions on various topics.
Group content is only available to Network Autism members. It’s free and quick to register:


Author: Nathalie Dick

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