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Advice about school if your child is autistic

Choosing a school for your child

One of the main decisions you'll have to make is the type of school you want your child to go to.

You'll have to decide if you think your child should go to a:

  • mainstream school – a regular school where your child may get support from a special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) if they need it
  • special school – a school for children with special educational needs
  • residential school – where children stay overnight
  • independent school – also called a section 41 school, which is not funded by the local council, so you might have to pay fees yourself

This can be a hard decision to make and there might not be lots of choice where you live.

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Getting support at a mainstream school

If your child can go to a mainstream school or nursery, you can help them get support if you think they need it.

1. Speak to staff at the nursery or school

Speaking to staff at their nursery or school is the best place to start.

You could speak to:

  • your child's teacher
  • the school's SENCO

Talk to them about your child's needs. For example, if they need help with communication, learning or social skills.

2. Ask what support your child can get

Ask the teacher or SENCO what support they can provide.

This may be things like:

  • extra teaching support for your child
  • different ways of teaching that are better for your child
  • separate lessons to help your child improve their skills

This may be enough for some autistic children. Other children may need extra support.

3. Get extra support if your child needs it

If your child needs extra support, they'll need an education, health and care (EHC) plan.

This is a document from your local council. It says what education and health needs your child has and what support they should get.

An EHC plan can either help:

  • the school apply for extra money so they can support your child
  • you apply for a place at a school that's better for your child

Your child does not need to have been diagnosed with autism to get extra support.

How to get extra support

  1. Ask your local council for an EHC assessment of your child's special education needs and disabilities (SEND). An EHC assessment can also be requested by your child's school, a health visitor, doctor, or relative.
  2. Have an assessment. The council will speak to you, the school and health professionals to work out what support your child needs.
  3. Read the draft plan. You can comment on the plan and add details, like the type of school you want your child to go to.
  4. Agree on the final plan.

The whole process can take a few months. Ask the school what support they can offer while it's happening.

If you do not agree with the council's decision

The council may decide your child does not need an EHC assessment or plan. If this happens, it should tell you why.

If you do not agree with its decision, you have the right to appeal.

You'll be told how to do this when you hear from the council.

Getting a place at a special school

To get a place at a special school, your child will usually need an EHC plan.

As part of an EHC plan, you have the right to tell your local council what type of school you'd like your child to go to, or name a particular school you prefer.

The council can only refuse this if there's a clear reason why the school is unsuitable.

Find out more about choosing a school with an EHC plan on the Independent Provider of Special Education Advice (IPSEA) website.

Where to get help and advice

Getting support for your child can be a long and complicated process.

You can get advice about it from:

It may also help to speak to other parents of autistic children.

Find out where you can get autism support

Dealing with anxiety about school

Going to school can be an anxious time for any child. Some autistic children might find it very hard.

You can get advice about it from:

Page last reviewed: 31 October 2022
Next review due: 31 October 2025