Autism and education

Most autistic children and young people will have their needs met in a mainstream school or college. Their education setting will have a good understanding of their needs and how to support them during their time.

All settings are expected to ensure they offer an inclusive environment that is adapted to meet needs.

Support standards

All schools have a special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) policy, which sets out their approach to identifying the special educational needs of their pupils. You can visit their individual websites to read their policy.

We have produced our own SEND standards and guidance for schools. They are called the:

The Autism Educational Trust has produced best practice guidance for schools and other educational settings. These standards help them check that how they teach meets the needs of pupils on the autism spectrum.

Support from school or college

Here are a few ways in which your child or young person's education setting can support them:


  • Explain any changes in routines or systems in advance.
  • Use visual timetables to show what will be happening during the day or week.
  • Have clear plans for unstructured times of the day, for example break-time, lunchtime, before and after school, movement between lessons.


  • Set explicit and clear expectations. Use unambiguous language.
  • Always tell the pupil what to do, not what not to do.
  • Use visual aids to support a child to gauge and communicate how they are feeling, for example emotional barometers, traffic light signs etc.
  • Expect to teach the child social skills, for example what to do when praised, how to ask for help, enter a room and greet people, sustain a conversation, make and sustain friendships with their peers, and how to regulate their own behaviour.

In lessons

  • In lessons, set tasks with clear goals and provide step-by-step instructions with visual clues on worksheets, posters, whiteboard etc.
  • Provide frameworks (scaffolds) for writing, for example step-by-step templates, mind maps, bubble diagrams, cloze procedure etc.
  • Provide access to temporary personal working spaces that offer a degree of separation, for example with screens, booths in the classroom. These can be used for specific time-limited tasks or for positive time-out.
  • Allow ample time for learning social skills through rehearsal and practice.
  • Use simple step-by-step visual illustrations to describe and rehearse an event or social interaction. Comic strips, sequential photographs or pictures etc. can be created for a wide range of situations.
  • Use immediate and individualised reward systems based on the pupils likes and interests, for example collecting stickers, extra time on the computer.

Alternatively, if you are looking for advice and support on educational rights and entitlements for parents and carers of autistic children you can contact:

Apply for a school place

If your child has SEND but does not have an education, health and care (EHC) plan you should apply for a school place in the same way as other parents.

If an EHC needs assessment has been started for your child, but is not yet complete, then you should follow the normal process for applying for a school place.

If you don't apply for a place and we don’t issue an EHC plan for your child, you may miss out on a place at one of your preferred schools.