Monday Motivation: Making classrooms accessible spaces for children with autism
An overwhelming 40% of parents who have a child with autism say that their child’s school does not adequately meet their needs, according to a report published by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism (APPGA) and the National Autistic Society (NAS).
Despite more than 1 in 100 children being autistic, Autism and education in England 2017, states that the needs of children on the autism spectrum are not well enough understood.
Parents often have to fight to obtain the help and support which their children are legally entitled to. This may be a place at a specialist school, or adequate support and provision that will enable them to thrive and make progress within a mainstream school.
Chloe Harwood, Design Manager at Sensory Guru, said: “Schools often underestimate the impact a classroom environment can have on a child’s ability to learn.
“Children with autism can have extremely complex sensory needs which can result in sensory overload.
“It may be the case that they struggle to cope with filtering any visual or auditory clutter, which means classrooms can be extremely stressful environments due to their cluttered walls, harsh lighting and poor acoustics.
“Classrooms need to be designed with the autistic child in mind. It is for this reason that Sensory Guru always incorporate flexible equipment into the learning environments that we design, so that the space can be adapted to meet the needs of the individual. This means that teachers can change the environment and reduce stimuli that can be overwhelming, in order to prevent sensory overload.
“The development of virtual and augmented reality is also a really exciting prospect when it comes to ensuring learning environments are suitable for people with autism, as it enables us to customise the space for an individual in real-time. Sensory Guru has some exciting developments within this area which are coming soon!”
MPs Huw Merriman and Maria Caulfield, Co-chairs of APPGA Inquiry into Autism and Education, have urged the government to develop a national autism and education strategy before the end of 2019, in light of the report.
They hope that the education strategy will “support local authorities to become more effective commissioners for children on the autism spectrum, and make sure that schools are equipped and welcoming to ensure that autistic pupils can thrive.”
Alarming statistics published in the APPGA report also include:
- Just under 50% children and young people on the autism spectrum say they are happy at school
- 70% of children say that their peers do not understand them and five in ten say that their teachers do not know how to support them
- 60% of young people and 70% of their parents say that the main thing that would make school better for them is having a teacher who understands autism
- 70% of parents say that support was not put in quickly enough for their child
- Nearly 70% waited more than 6 months for support and 50% waited more than a year
- 42% of parents say their child was refused an assessment of their special educational needs the first time it was requested
- 40% of parents say that their child’s school place does not fully meet their needs
- Only 10% parents say they are very satisfied with the process of agreeing an education, health and care plan for their child
- Fewer than 5 in 10 teachers say that they are confident about supporting a child on the autism spectrum