May children may be on the autistic spectrum, even though they have not been medically diagnosed.A child or young person doesn’t need to show all these signs below to be diagnosed as autistic.
If you think your child may be on the spectrum, here are some of the signs they may show:
- have obsessions or intense interests
- show repetitive play and behaviour that affects their ability to take part in the school day
- have ‘inappropriate’ eye contact such as avoiding looking at you or staring
- have difficulty with communicating (some children may not talk at all)
- be unaware of social niceties and talk at people rather than having reciprocal conversations
- take more time to process information
- have a rigid expectation that other children should adhere to the rules of play
- not draw others’ attention to objects or events
- have difficulty relating to others – making and keeping friendships
- have difficulty with engaging in imaginative play (although this may not be the case for children with a demand avoidant profile)
- dislike doing things differently, resist change, or need a lot of preparation for any changes
- have very high sensitivity to some sensory stimuli, very low sensitivity to others, and a low threshold to sensory overload
- enjoy spinning objects or flapping their hands (stimming)
- behave in a self-injurious way, or display other forms of challenging behaviour such as biting, pinching, kicking or pica
- behave aggressively towards other children due to underlying anxieties or sensory sensitivities
- experience anxiety
- have difficulty with organising, sequencing and prioritising
- lack awareness of danger
- appear to be of an average or above average intelligence, but unable to use it academically.
If your child has been diagnosed they are on the spectrum, they have rights to all maintained and independent schools and maintained and non-maintained special school, under the Equality Act 2010. It is vital to understand that your child can not be discriminated against or victimised in regards to admissions, exclusions or the way the education is taught and the access to any benefits or services. For example therefore a school can not refuse an application for an admission based on their disability.
There are a range of different schools whereby your child could be taught- mainstream, specialist, residential, non-maintained and independent schools. For example, many children with autism are taught within mainstream schools. If you would like your child to go to a mainstream school, they have the opportunity to be provided with extra support for a set number of hours a week if they have an Education, Health and Care plan. However, whereas specialist schools are specifically for children with special educational needs. This could range from austism to severe physical difficulties. The teachers will be able to provide support specific to your child.
What to think about before you go and visit a school..
Have a think about what elements of a school would be important to you and ensuring you feel at ease leaving your child there.
Whether that is:
- friendly and approachable staff- preferably with an understanding of autism
- Awareness and understanding of the strategies used for autistic pupils and how they are individual to each pupil
- a clear bullyingpolicy
- Clear understanding of autism and show an eagerness to teach autism awareness and acceptance.
What to think about when visiting a school..
Here are some suggested tips when visiting a school.
- Build a rapport with the class teachers and assistants, as well as the tour guide as the more people you know in the school, the more comfortable you will feel
- If you visit the school during a school day, pay attention to break times and how the pupils are in the playground, not just in the classroom during lessons. This will allow you to gain an insight of how the staff interact with the children during playtime, what sort of activities your child could encounter during break time and how the children are there.
- Take your child with you to visit at least one school. This will allow them to gain an insight of what they can expect to be dealing with, but it will also allow you to see how they will cope in the environment.
- If you can, talk to other parents. Ask questions about their experience of talking with teachers and other staff and having their concerns addressed.
What to think about after the visit
Once you have visited schools, the next step is to make your application.
Some autistic children have an EHC plan before they start school, others will go through the EHC needs assessment process once in school. If you have an EHC plan, then you have the right to request a particular school named in the plan.
Try to narrow your choice of schools down to two or three. As long as you can see your child being comfortable and happy there, and you would be happy to see them go to school every morning, then the school could be considered as an option regardless of whether you see it as perfect or not. Always have more than one school, just in case your child doesn’t get a place to their first choice.
Ensure you are comfortable and happy with the schools approach of dealing with autistic children and have spoken to the head teacher and various teachers about what types of strategies they may use. Don’t be afraid, when choosing your schools, to ask the schools for evidence and paperwork on their approach to autistic children, such as an example of an individual education plan.
SENCO has a role in providing support. Their support extends not only to the children with autism and their parents, but also to teachers to ensure they have made relevant arrangements for the child and provide access to external support such as speech and language therapists.
SENCO must be either be: A qualified teacher or: A head teacher/appointed acting head teacher or: Taking steps to become a qualified teacher, and can show a reasonable likelihood of becoming qualified, Under The Education (Special Educational Needs Coordinators) (England) Regulations 2008a