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Understanding autism
Understanding autism

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4.1 Educational plans and statements

To ensure that an autistic child has appropriate support for their education, it is important that their needs are fully understood and documented at the outset. This may require, in England, an Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP), in Scotland a Coordinated Support Plan (CSP), or in Wales or Northern Ireland a statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN). These are legal documents drawn up by the local authority to specify the additional support needs of the child, objectives for them to achieve and the help that they need in order to achieve those objectives. However, some parents report a considerable battle to obtain the relevant statement for their child. Moreover, as in Melanie’s case, they may find that additional funding allocated to the school for their own child’s support is absorbed into a pool of resources for the support of a number of children:

Louis’s 11K was put in the pool to provide teaching assistants (TAs) generally. As a result he got no one-to-one support.

(Melanie, 2017, pers. comm.)

Another problem is that not all autistic children will receive a plan or statement, as their needs are not considered severe enough. In these cases, parents may find themselves trying to persuade the mainstream school that support is necessary:

In the case of my daughter, who was aged 13 at the point of diagnosis, she was discharged from CAMHS* after we received the report as if the job was done. It was left to us to liaise with her school about what this meant and what adjustments, if any, were appropriate. Autism was an explanation for behaviour deemed to be ‘socially inappropriate’ and for insecurities in coping with change, anger management, sensory issues and the otherworldliness described as daydreaming. She had developed coping and masking strategies to disguise her sense of difference and to fit in with her peer group. I was told that she was ‘borderline’, ‘very high functioning’ due to her intelligence, vocabulary and imagination. As she didn’t present as typically autistic in the way that her elder brother [G] did, there seemed to be an assumption that no additional support was needed.

(N, 2017, pers. comm.)

*CAMHS stands for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. In the UK these are services within the National Health Service that assess and treat young people with emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties.