10 education things your school can do

Explore the 10 simple adjustments schools can make to create a more inclusive and rewarding school environment for autistic students.

Our ‘10 things schools can do’ adjustments are a great guide for your school for implementing processes and methods that will help make the education experience better for autistic students.

From considering the physical environment to adapting testing methods, formalising communication channels and creating dialogue processes to informing and building understanding among all students, they are simple things to do that will help improve school for autistic students.

An individualised learning approach in schools will help utilise the strengths and meet the unique needs of autistic students. Implementing as many of our ‘10 things schools can do adjustments’ as possible will help pave the way for tailored learning programs and improve the outcomes for not just autistic students, but potentially all students.

It has been proven that adjustment like these made for autistic students ultimately benefit every student.

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1. Modification of the curriculum

Modify or adapt the curriculum and lessons to suit autistic learning styles.

Lessons and a curriculum that have been planned for the rest of the class may not be suited to autistic students.

Looking into things like quantity of work, allowing extra time for task completion and processing time, and altering task difficulty can reduce anxiety. Introducing peer tutoring, visual instruction formats, use of audio books, verbal assessment options and structured participation are helpful ways for autistic students to get more out of class and lessons.

Who knows, other students with varied ways of learning may also benefit.

Download Curriculum Info Sheet >
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2. Assessment

Standard assessment techniques can be a barrier for autistic students.

All students need to be supported to demonstrate what they know, however stringent assessment design can act as a barrier for autistic students.

Changes to assessment, tests and exams based on a teacher’s understanding of individual students allows their knowledge to be more accurately assessed.

Techniques such as providing additional reading time, using checklists to assist with planning, breaking down tasks into stages, oral exams, and allowing exam breaks can help autistic students best demonstrate their true ability.

Download Assessment Info Sheet >
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3. Extra classroom support

Extra classroom support for teachers and students to maximise learning for all.

Additional resources in classrooms can be beneficial in supporting teachers and maximising learning for all students.

A teacher’s aide for example can not only be of assistance to the teacher and autistic and non-autistic students in the classroom, but also outside of the classroom. Working in collaboration with other staff and therapists, driving curriculum development and providing general support and strategies.

Aides can also support autistic students outside of the classroom, at break times, on excursions and school camps

Download Extra Support Info Sheet >
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4. Establish clear routines and avoid changes

Autistic students find comfort in routine.

Altering routines and changing out of mindsets can make autistic students anxious. They thrive on predictable routines and knowing what is going to happen.

Simple adjustments can help reduce anxiety for autistic students, introducing the use of visual schedules, colour coding, developing social stories for lesson structure, allowing specific seating arrangements, encouraging peer support and providing as much notice as possible to any changes can help autistic student manage anxiety and concentrate on learning

Download Routines Info Sheet >
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5. Adjust sensory environment - noise, light, smell

Autistic students can be acutely aware of their immediate environment.

Light, sound, odours, tastes, touch and textures can for autistic students be far more noticeable than for their neurotypical peers. If so, they will avoid sensory stimulus that they find difficult.

Autistic students may need to leave the classroom if the noise becomes too loud or wear sunglasses or hats to reduce light. Overexposure may lead to becoming overwhelmed and result in a meltdown.

Being aware of and accepting of these behaviours and their purpose is a great support.

Download Sensory Info Sheet >
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6. Outside the Classroom

Ensuring support for autistic students outside the classroom.

Beyond the classroom can present difficulties for autistic students. Recess, lunchtime, between classes, assemblies, special visits, excursions or camps, any new situation has the potential to create anxiety, and the need for support strategies.

Transitions can be particularly distressing as they break with routine.

Strategies such as a buddy system, break time activity clubs, access to ‘safe places’ or nominated staff and yard duty teachers observing autistic students in the playground are all great ways to help with potential outside issues.

Download Outside Class Info Sheet >
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7. Staff Advocates

Identifying a designated staff member as a communication conduit.

Creating a regular parent teacher dialogue process to ensure and knowledge exchange enables parents and teachers to share information.

Be that specific ‘of the moment’ issues, schedule changes, upcoming new activities or the exchange of known strategies.

A well-established process between family to teacher at school drop off and pick up, allows any key details to be shared about how a student is feeling, or what has transpired during the day. Formal Student Support Group meetings can be beneficial also.

Download Advocates Info Sheet >
Contact Amaze >

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8. Bullying

Deal with bullying effectively.

Autistic children are more likely to experience bullying because of their difficulty in reading body language and understanding of social and cultural norms.

As a consequence, schools and teachers need to be particularly vigilant where autistic students are concerned. A positive attitude towards autistic students and full acceptance requires a commitment to ensuring their safety and wellbeing at all times. Educating all students on anti-bullying, upholding bullying policies, encouraging inclusion and ensuring all students are, and feel, valued will promote a positive attitude throughout the school.

Download Bullying Info Sheet >
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9. Educating other students

Working with other students.

When a student and their parents are comfortable with others being informed of a diagnosis of autism, an agreement can be made to inform and educate other students.

Autism should be presented as a different way of thinking and experiencing the world. Strengths should be noted. Weaknesses explained. Support encouraged.

Understanding is all when it comes to student interactions, teaching children about difference and inclusion, encouraging a supportive and accepting environment in schools doesn’t only help autistic student, but ensures all students are happy.

Download Other Students Info Sheet >
Contact Amaze >

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10. Leaving the classroom

Create a ‘classroom timeout break’ process.

When an autistic student is becoming overwhelmed, it is important that they are able to self-regulate their behaviour.

Allowing an autistic student to leave the classroom for a short period of time to self-regulate in their own time and space will mitigate further escalation and the potential meltdown.

Often only short time is needed in a quiet space to calm down, gather themselves and get back to class, fully able to concentrate, free of anxiety.

Download Timeout Breaks Info Sheet >
Contact Amaze >

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Do the Quiz thing

Why not test your comprehension?

You’ve read some information, by now you should be pretty educated on autism.

Why not test yourself?

If we all get better educated on autism we can better support autistic students toward a truly rewarding educational experience!

See how you measure up.
Take the quiz now!

And when you’re done – don’t forget to share!
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Do the other things

There is a lot more to know about autism.

If you’re interested to find out more, and do more things for autism.

Check out this page

You can also read up on the things that autistic people would like you to know about autism!

Go there now!


What we found out about Autism and Education


Study 1
Community Attitudes and Behaviours towards Autism

The Community Attitudes and Behaviours towards Autism Survey was conducted to identify community attitudes and behaviours relating to autism.

One of the key outcomes of this research is to better understand the attitudes and behaviours of the community and establish a baseline from which we are able to track changes over time to measure progress against Amaze’s strategic outcomes.

To our knowledge, this is the first study of its kind to examine the attitudes and behaviours towards autism in Australia.

Findings
What do Australians know about Autism and Education

Prevalence:

More than half of the respondents agreed that the number of autistic people is increasing, and a further third were unsure.
Respondents were less confident that the number of girls with autism is increasing.

Impact:

Of concern, was that almost a fifth of respondents believed that schools can refuse to enrol a student with autism.
A further third were unsure.
Less than a fifth believed that autistic people should go to Special Schools.

Almost one in five believed it was true or were unsure whether people with autism grow out of the condition.


Study 2
Experiences of Autistic People and their Families Survey

The Experiences Survey sought to better understand the experiences and challenges faced by autistic people, their family members and carers.

The survey aimed to collect data from approximately 1,000 autistic people and/or family members/carers of an autistic person.
Participants were recruited from subscribers to Amaze’s information and communication publications.
The collected data will be used to help build understanding of the needs of autistic people, their families and carers.
Results will be used to develop educational and support materials, public reports, media communications, advice to government and academic publications on the lived experience of people on the autism spectrum and their family members/carers.

Findings
Adjustments made at School

Respondents with a child currently in education were asked whether the school had made any of ten specific adjustments.

The only adjustment reported by more than half of respondents was to identify a person or teacher at school for them to contact and/or exchange information with, about their autistic child’s needs and progress at school.

While this is great on one hand, on the other it does suggest that there is a substantial proportion of schools that do not have someone to contact or work with if your child is autistic.

The only other modifications reported by one-third or more of respondents were:
The establishment of clear routines and avoidance of changes.
The provision of an education aide to meet the student’s needs.
The modification of the curriculum.

Once again the schools that have implemented these adjustments is excellent, but we have a significant proportion of schools that haven’t put these adjustments in place, which means a lot of our autistic students are struggling through school without the kind of help that will ensure they have a great and valuable education experience.


It suggests that we have work to do!
And all the more reason why it is so important for us to get better at education for autistic people, Victoria!
Our ’10 simple adjustments schools can make’ are easy to implement and will greatly improve the educational experience of autistic students.
Can you can help make these happen at your school?
Let’s improve our grades and make all schools better for autistic students.