Date Published: 23 May 2006

UK National Autistic Society launches its first education campaign

Health News from the United Kingdom (UK).

The National Autistic Society (NAS), the UK's leading charity for people with autism, their parents and carers, will launch its first ever education campaign, make school make sense.

NAS President Jane Asher, children with autism and their teachers will take the NAS make school make sense policy report to Number 10 Downing Street, taking the needs of children with autism straight to decision-makers. This will be followed by a Parliamentary reception on 24 May 2006 at the House of Commons.

Education is one of the most important issues facing children with autism and their parents. The NAS Advocacy for Education Service takes around 1,800 calls from families a year about their problems with education. The vast majority are parents who are fighting to get the right support for their child. New NAS research, informed by the largest autism and education survey ever undertaken in the UK, reveals that:

  • Over 40% of children with autism have been bullied at school.
  • Over 50% of children with autism are not in the kind of school their parents believe would best support them.
  • 66% of parents said their choice of school was limited by a lack of appropriate placements for children with autism in their local area.
  • Of the families of children with autism who appealed to the Special Education Needs Disability Tribunal (SENDIST), 79% won their case. Previous research has shown that there are more appeals to the SENDIST about schooling for children with autism than for children with any other type of special education need. One in five parents of children with autism have had to appeal due to a lack of adequate provision for their child.

In addition to these figures, reports show that:

  • 1 in 110 children has autism but there is currently no requirement for trainee or practising teachers to undertake any training in autism and over 70% of schools are not satisfied with the level of their teachers training.
  • Over 25% of children with autism have been excluded from school, usually due to a lack of understanding and awareness on the part of the school.

A full breakdown of the NAS autism and education research is available in the NAS policy report, make school make sense, published today.

The NAS make school make sense campaign aims to exert pressure on Government and local authorities, and work with them to deliver improvements to education for children with autism. It seeks to engage, support and empower individuals to lobby for change.

The campaign demands:

  1. The right school for every child
    Every child with autism should have local access to a diverse range of mainstream and specialist educational provision including autism-specific resource bases attached to mainstream schools, specialist schools and specialist outreach support.
  2. The right training for every teacher
    1 in 110 children has autism so all teachers should expect to teach a child with the disability and must receive appropriate training in order that they can best support their needs.
  3. The right approach in every school
    All schools should be autism-friendly schools, which promote and provide a positive environment for children with autism now and in the future.

Sam Hilton, parent of three children with autism, said:

" Getting the right education for my children is the single hardest thing I have ever experienced. I have even had to help set up a school myself in order to get the right support, and at first was told that my son couldn't go there. It took going through an education tribunal to achieve the support that he needs. I'm now anticipating the same battle with my younger son Charlie - it's never ending! Children are our future and every child has the right to be educated and to develop to their full potential. What does the future hold if we don't help them now?"

Mike Collins, Head of Education, The National Autistic Society, said:

" Autism is a complex disability that is widely misunderstood. Too often, children and young people with autism are placed in inappropriate schools, with teaching staff who don't have relevant training in the disability and in an environment that doesn't meet their needs. The NAS make school make sense campaign highlights these challenges and is calling on Government, at a national and local level, to ensure that the education system works for children and young people with autism. Meeting the needs of pupils with autism benefits every school because good practice for children with the disability is good practice for other students as well. The NAS is asking people to get involved in the campaign and lobby their MPs and local authorities to demand that children with autism get the education that is their right."

The NAS wishes to recognise and celebrate those who have supported people with autism to achieve their potential at school. make school make sense heroes can be suggested by parents or children, who feel that their hero has made a real difference to their experiences at school or college. A make school make sense hero could be a teacher, a learning support assistant, SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator), caterer or other staff member.

To nominate your make school make sense hero, visit www.autism.org.uk/campaign (Note: This article is dated 2006. Links and contact details might now be expired or out of date.)

There are many ways to get involved in the NAS make school make sense campaign, including sending an email to Secretary of State for Education, Alan Johnson, MP to persuade him of the need for change and sending a make school make sense campaign postcard to your local authority to find out what they are doing to ensure children with autism get the education they deserve in your area.

Source(s): National Autistic Society (UK)
http://www.nas.org.uk

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