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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) - Support at school

Schools are able to support children and young people in many different ways. This includes children who may have a diagnosis of, or are waiting for an assessment of Autism.

Speak to the school's Additional Learning Needs Coordinator (ALNCo), who will be able to advise you of what support can be offered.

Sometimes, a meeting will be held so that everybody understands your child's strengths and needs and measures can be put in place to support them with:

1. attention and listening
2. communication
3. their emotions

This might include

  • visual support to help them settle at school and understand and communicate
  • a special place if the classroom gets a bit noisy or overwhelming
  • activities to develop their listening and attention skills
  • support to play with their friends.

Lots of children benefit from having structure and praise. For some, this could be a reward such as a favourite activity or movement break when they complete short tasks.

Every child is different, so it is important that everybody has a say on the best way to support them.

Organisations, training and resources

ELKLAN  is an organisation that can support staff to understand the development of speech and language skills and social communication needs. Parent courses are available too.

WellComm - this toolkit can be used in primary schools to identify and support children's speech and language skills.

Language link - this is an online package that can be used to identify and support children with speech and language difficulties.

Speech and Language Link - support for SLCN

1. Strategies, activities and approaches to develop attention and listening skills:

These are many strategies and activities that schools can use as part of their everyday support for children and young people. As Parents and Carers you may find them useful too.

Developing active listening skills - this involves teaching good looking, listening, sitting and thinking skills. There are many ways to do this but visual support is an important part of developing this skill. Sometimes, pictures are used to support understanding.

Bucket time - a technique that can be used to build children's attention and listening skills, eye contact and ability to sit for periods of time. This develops social interaction skills too.

Turn Taking games - these can be useful in helping children to develop their cooperative play skills and can be tailored to the needs of the individual children.

Modifying Language - this is where adults use single words, chunk information (into smaller parts) and use pauses to help children understand spoken information.

Work stations - this is where an area of the classroom can be modified into a more quiet, less distracting area to help children complete tasks.

Modelling Play - adults can play an important role in showing children how to play. This is done by interacting and modelling play so children can copy actions and develop their own skills.


2. Strategies, activities and approaches to support communication

These can help children and young people to understand and use language.

Objects of reference are objects, e.g. a coat or bag that can be used to represent an activity, person, or place.

Using visual support - this is where  photographs, line drawings, symbols or images can be used to improve understanding and provide opportunities to request items and activities too.,schedule%2C%20sequence%20or%20reward%20chart

Sign assisted communication - sign assisted communication is a way of communicating and building relationships using our hands, facial expressions and body language. The two main recognised types are Makaton and Signalong but British Sign Language is sometimes used too.

Communication passport- a communication passport brings together information about a child or young person to help people get to know them.

Using alternative and augmentative communication (AAC)

This is where children and young people use signs and symbols to communicate their needs either through books and pictures (low tech) or through a tablet/iPad hi-tech)

Visual support

Daily timetables -daily timetables are schedules with pictures, images, symbols or words that can support a child or young person to be aware of activities and changes during the school day.

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First / then board - these can help children and young people complete tasks and to move from one activity to another. These are sometimes called now-and-next boards.

Choice boards -a choice board is a visual support used by a child or young person to communicate a desired activity, item, or location.

Social stories -Social Stories help to explain social situations and rules to a child or young person and help them to learn new ways to cope with these situations.

Take a break cards - take a break card can helps when a child becomes overwhelmed and provides an opportunity for the child or young person to take a moment to calm down.

Task boards -Task boards can be used as visual maps of the different stages of tasks. It's a visual way of showing the child or young person what needs to be done.

Labelling the environment -Labelling is important for children and can help them  understand what's in their environment and become more independent in the classroom.


3. Strategies and activities to support emotions:

Sensory Rooms - a sensory is a room that schools can use to help children and young people regulate. This means that they can be helped to become calm if they are distressed or some children and young people may want to engage in sensory seeking activities as part of their daily timetable.

Calm area/room - these are similar to sensory rooms but these areas may be used by a child or young person to feel calm in a different way because they are not over-stimulating.

Sensory areas - an example of this would be a blackout tent. This could be placed in the classroom to help children and young people take some time out without leaving the classroom.

Sensory circuits - sensory circuits are activities that children and young people can engage in so that they can become regulated and better able to learn.

Sensory Circuits | Children Young People and Families Online Resource (

Emotion check ins - these can be used at the beginning of the day or at various times in the day so help children identify how they are feeling. This can be supported visually if necessary.

Five point scales - this can help children to identify how they are feeling on a scale of 1-5 and how to feel better by carrying out simple activities in class like taking a break and having a drink of water.

ABC charts - these can be used to help school staff identify situations that can cause children to become dysregulated/upset and put in strategies to help them.

Zones of regulation - an approach to manage social regulation for children and young people.

Emotion fans - these can be used to help children understand and convey how they are feeling when they are on the move as they are easily transportable, on a key ring for example.

Fidget toys - these can be useful to help children regulate and help them to listen.

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