Autism training for all teachers.

Two autism charities have written a letter to the Guardian calling for all teachers in England to be trained in autism, saying that without this children with autism risk being misunderstood and marginalised.

The letter calls for autism to be included in the initial teacher training framework for England, which is under review by the government. The signatories include MPs and school staff.

Put together by the National Autistic Society (NAS) and Ambitious about Autism, the campaign argues that with more than 1% of children on the autism spectrum and almost three-quarters of them in mainstream schools, virtually every teacher will have autistic students in a class at some point.

However, they note, training connected to autism is not mandatory, while some teachers have no training in special educational needs of any kind.

Mark Lever, the chief executive of the NAS, said thousands of autistic children were being disadvantaged every year. He said: “This is one of the reasons that children on the autism spectrum are four times more likely to be excluded than those without special educational needs.”

He continued: “We don’t expect teachers to be experts in autism. But a basic knowledge of the lifelong disability and where to go for extra help would make a huge difference to their students.

“For instance, many children on the autism spectrum are so sensitive to light or sound that an overhead light or humming computer can be physically painful and make it almost impossible to follow a lesson. Simple changes, like to the seating arrangement so the student is away from the light or letting them wear ear defenders, can make a huge difference.”

An NAS survey last year found 58% of children and young people on the autism spectrum said the change that would most improve school for them would be better understanding from teachers. Separate research by Ambitious about Autism found more than half of parents had kept a child with autism from school because of a lack of proper support there. - The Guardian

Letter published in today’s Guardian can be read here

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