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 these quick 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. Work in partnership with the individual and their parents/carers
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. Make reasonable adjustments 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. Train all school staff on autism awareness
Helping staff to gain a better understanding of how to work with children on the autism spectrum is crucial. 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 an important role in overseeing unstructured parts of the school day. These are often the parts that autistic children find the most challenging.
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