Do autistic children need a special school? 


Support SEND Kids
31 Aug 2021

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A: SenseCheck

  • 0 Yes
  • 0 No
  • 1 Other


  • 01 Sep 2021
  • Other


    Can't answer yes or no.:

    This depends.

    Lots of people who have autism are very successful in mainstream schools with reasonable adjustments made.

    In nursery, this may be support to learn how to use play equipment, their own place on the carpet or a music interaction group.

    In primary school, this could be visual timetables to reduce anxiety; staff changing the way they speak to the child or extra teaching on social skills.

    In secondary school, it could be extra support to make the Y6 to Y7 transition less stressful; access to an after-school homework club or a daily check in with a familiar adult.

    None of the above need a special school environment.

    When considering whether a child needs special school, these factors are often relevant:
    - The severity of the autism;
    - The age of the child (many autistic children are very successful at primary where they have one teacher and the same class mates for seven years);
    - How much progress the child is making;
    - Whether the child has additional disabilities.

    If a child has an EHCP, parents can make a preference for a special school.

    Whether this is accepted depends on whether the school preference is suitable for the age, ability, aptitude and SEND of your child. It also depends on whether it would be cost efficient and whether it would be compatible with the education of others. These are all reasons in the SEND Code of Practice for a school being able to turn down a preference for their school.

    Another factor that affects the likelihood of an autistic child going to special school is the relationships between the parents and their child’s current mainstream school. If these break down, parents are more likely to look at specialist provision, even if a fresh start in a new school is feasible. In a small number of cases, the child’s needs become overshadowed by the ability or willingness of adults to work together.

    Such cases are often amplified. We hear more about when it goes wrong than when it goes right. Not many support groups are set up for parents whose children are flourishing in mainstream. Where people are having a difficult time, they are more likely to talk about it more. Put simply, bad news travels further and faster and this might influence parents that their child’s needs can’t be met in mainstream when, in fact, issues can often be overcome.

    If you are thinking about special school, talk to people who know your child. See what their opinion is (or is not). Visit the special school.

    Depending on the age and develpmental level of your child, you may want to do a second visit with your child - their views are important too.

    This answer helps you to think about some of the factors, but advisors online don't know your child. Talk to people who do.

    The bottom line is that no one on the internet can tell you whether special school is right for your child.

    It depends.

    Aaron King

    Aaron King
    9000 Lives SEND Consultancy