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Back to school: autism resources

Returning to school, or indeed beginning school for the first time, is a time of enormous change for autistic pupils and involves new routines, environments and people. 

Here we have gathered together a number of articles and resources for school staff on how best to support autistic pupils on their return to school. Some of the information is for all ages but we have also included specific sections for pre-school, primary and secondary ages. The document also contains some useful information for parents too.

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Author: Chris Hunter

Back to school: autism resources for school staff

General information

The National Autistic Society have a range of information and advice for school staff on their website, including:

  • support strategies and informal ways staff can help
  • managing unstructured times such as playtime
  • bullying
  • a good practice guide for local authorities and schools in England.

Dean Da Conceicao, Autism Helpline Adviser at the National Autistic Society, offers some advice for teachers on what to do if they suspect a child they teach may be autistic.

Autism specialist and autistic adult Sarah Hendrickx discusses the topic of anxiety and autism in education and offers some approaches to help support pupils.

Sarah-Jane Critchley explores when and how to support a young person in deciding whether to disclose their autism diagnosis at school or college.

The National Autistic Society has information and advice on supporting autistic people with sport and physical activity, including a free downloadable booklet.

Phoebe Caldwell explores the sensory challenges that autistic pupils may face in the classroom, and outlines ways in which staff can reduce sensory overload.

Andy Cutting, the NAS specialist exclusions advisor, offers some tips for overcoming the barriers to inclusion in education.

The National Autistic Society and Autism Education Trust have produced some teachers' resources to avoid excluding autistic pupils.

Ruth Fidler, Education Consultant and author, discusses some of the difficulties facing pupils with pathological demand avoidance (PDA) and how staff can best support them.

Middletown Centre for Autism, partners of Network Autism, have developed an online resource for education professionals offering a range of educational resources and ideas for good autism practice.

Pre-school

The National Autistic Society have produced some information and advice for professionals working in an early years setting.  It describes the challenges an autistic child may face and offers tips on introducing them to pre-school or nursery. The information also offers some advice on adapting the curriculum, and training for nursery and pre-school staff.

Amanda Haydock, a nursery teacher working with autistic children, outlines the approaches their pre-school setting uses to develop communication, social and play skills.

Primary school

Jacky Wyatt, a Reception Teacher in a mainstream primary school, gives us her advice on the transition to primary school for autistic children.

Lynn McCann, an autism specialist, teacher and consultant, has some advice on her website about preparing an autism-friendly primary classroom.

Rebecca Wood, Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham, explores how autistic children in mainstream primary school access tests and discusses how inclusion can be improved.

Sandra Craig, Principal Teacher of Additional Special Needs at Riverside School, gives an insight into The Autism Provision Gang - a group of children who lead the school on autism awareness and acceptance.

Louise Elliott, Specialist Speech and Language and Behaviour Specialist at Grange Park School, discusses a research project looking at the needs of autistic children transitioning to secondary school. 

Secondary school

Victoria Hatton, ASD inclusion teacher in a mainstream secondary school, explores how to support autistic children and young people on their first day back at school.

Lynn McCann, an autism specialist, teacher and consultant, gives her top 5 tips for teaching secondary school autistic students.

Victoria Honeybourne, a Senior Advisory Teacher for Speech, Language and Communication Needs has some tips and advice for teachers on recognising some of the less obvious differences in autistic communication.

Middletown Centre for Autism have produced an online Teenage resource, aimed at supporting young autistic people, their families and the professionals working with them.

Dr Catherine Tissot, Head of the Institute of Education at University of the Reading, gives us her top 5 autism tips on sex education for autistic children.

Rachel Babbidge, Transition Support Service Coordinator at the National Autistic Society, explains how to use a person centred planning approach to support young people as they transition into adulthood

Network Autism has collated a range of resources aimed at supporting autistic students before and during exam time.

Martyn Brown and Rachel Babbidge from the National Autistic Society offer advice and information on supporting autistic students into university, including what and where to study and preparing for university life.

Gender and ethnicity

Autistic girls may be better at masking their difficulties and may interact socially more often than autistic boys, leading to many being undiagnosed. The following is some information and advice on supporting autistic girls in school settings. 

The National Autistic Society has some general information on how autism may present differently in girls.

NASEN have published a short guide about girls and autism for educational professionals which includes advice on supporting autistic girls, and perspectives from parents and professionals.

Victoria Honeybourne presents the results of some research she did looking into the hidden difficulties of autistic girls at school.

Sarah Wild is Head Teacher at Limpsfield Grange School, a secondary special school for girls with social communication and interaction needs. Sarah discusses how autism presents in girls and how they support autistic pupils at the school, particularly with managing anxiety. 

Joe Butler, special educational needs and disability consultant and trainer, explores how best to support trans or gender questioning autistic pupils in schools and gives advice and practical support.

Education professionals working with minority ethnic families with autistic children will have cultural differences to consider. In this article by Olatokunbo Bankole we find out how professionals can best support African families with an autistic child at school.

Parents

Some advice and strategies from the National Autistic Society for parents whose child is about to begin or change schools.

Gianna Colizza, teacher and Chair of a local autism support group, discusses her approach to supporting parents after a child's autism diagnosis.

Kabie Brook, an autistic parent and chairperson/co-founder of Autism Rights Group Highland (ARGH), gives advice for professionals on how to support autistic parents.

Useful resources

MyWorld

MyWorld is the National Autistic Society school and nursery resource programme that helps you support autistic children in your school or nursery. Sign up to receive free emails on a range of different topics such as socialising and autism, sensory and behaviour issues and transition.

Autism Education Trust

The Autism Education Trust is a not-for-profit programme led by the National Autistic Society and Ambitious about Autism. They offer training and resources for the three education phases – early years, school and post-16. Some resources are specific to England.

Related resources from Network Autism 

Corinna Laurie, specialist occupational therapist, explains what occupation therapy is and how it can help autistic children.

Lucy Skye has had a recent diagnosis of autism and in this article she gives a very personal and fascinating insight into some of the challenges she experiences with food and eating. Lucy discusses the sensory aspects of eating, the relationship between anxiety and controlled eating and how these can be understood and supported by those around her.  

Lucy Sanctuary, a paediatric speech and language therapist, discusses the reasons why autistic young people may self-harm and how speech and language approaches can help and support them.  

An archive of Network Autism interviews with professionals including Dr Judith Gould and Sarah Hendrickx.

Date updated: 16 August 2019