Shaping autism education to support a bright future for autistic children, young people and their families

There are over 120,000 autistic pupils in England’s schools, of which over 70% are educated in mainstream schools. In England, autistic children and young people (CYP) are more likely to be regularly and unlawfully excluded from school for a fixed period than children who do not have special educational needs.  

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support autism in the classroom

Researchers at the University of Birmingham, led by Director of the Autism Centre for Education and Research (ACER), Professor Karen Guldberg have made substantial contributions to developing autism education founded on both the knowledge base of research and practice. This research continues to challenge the misconceptions around autism.   

Professor Karen Guldberg

ACER have empowered teachers to see autistic CYP as having different and distinct learning needs, rather than being ‘problematic’. Through extensive research we now have an advanced understanding on how autistic people learn and ways in which teachers and senior leaders can demonstrate inclusive attitudes and pupil-centred approaches which will transform the educational experience of autistic pupils.   

Through ‘good autism practice’, a term developed by the ACER team, and now referred to nationally; staff in education have adopted new and improved practices and methods in teaching autistic pupils. In collaboration with the Autism Education Trust (AET) partnership, professional development programmes and frameworks are now in place as approved key training.   

Reflecting on the current pandemic and the challenges people with autism and their families have faced during this time ACER have been talking to parents who have children on the autism spectrum about their experiences during lockdown. They surveyed 300 parents and now are able to share a summary of these findings to help inform teachers and make recommendations for practice.  

Patrick with his family
Sophie with her family
Sam laughing with Wendy