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 special educational needs staff if they need it
- special school – a school for children with special educational needs
This can be a hard decision to make and there might not always be lots of choice where you live.
You can read advice from the National Autistic Society about:
The National Autistic Society education rights service can also give advice about school options by phone or online.
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 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
- special educational needs (SENCO) staff, if the school has them
Talk to them about the needs you think your child has. 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 their school does not usually provide, they'll need an education, health and care plan (EHC plan, or EHCP).
This is a document from your local council. It says what education and health needs your child has and what support they should get.
This 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
- Ask your local council for an EHC assessment. The school may be able to do this for you.
- Have an assessment. The council will speak to you, the school and health professionals to work out what support your child needs.
- Get a draft plan. You can comment on the plan and add details like the type of school you want your child to go to.
- Agree 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, they should tell you why.
If you do not agree with their 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 council what school you'd like your child to go to.
The council can only refuse this if they think there's a clear reason why the school is unsuitable.
The charity IPSEA has more about choosing a school with an EHC plan.
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:
- your local special educational needs advice service
- the National Autistic Society education rights service
It may also help to speak to other parents of autistic children.
Find out more:
Dealing with anxiety about school
Going to school can be an anxious time for any child. Some autistic children might find it very hard.
The National Autistic Society has advice about coping with: