The issue of education is an important one for parents of an autistic child as their son/daughter is likely to require extra help and support during this time.

This help and support will be required at various stages of their education and may vary according to what stage they are at, for example, primary school or sixth form college.


Applied behavioural analysis (ABA) is recommended before your child starts school and exhibits classic autistic behaviours. The aim is to reduce these before these behaviours become established and therefore difficult to remove.

The idea is to teach basic communication and social skills but to break these down into manageable tasks which your child will be able to absorb. The emphasis is on a structured approach accompanied by positive feedback and reward.

What has been found is that addressing these issues at an early stage reduces the symptoms of autism and enables them to function as normal as possible.

The aim is to teach your child the skills they need at school such as social interaction and communication with teachers and other children. These include learning to play with others, language skills and appropriate behaviour.

Other forms of help include computer based learning (educational software) and visual aids, e.g. picture cards.


This includes primary and secondary school; grammar and independent/private schools.

There are several issues to consider which include dealing with homework, interacting with their peers and adapting to a different routine and environment.

Another issue is whether to choose a mainstream school or a special needs school. If your child has been ’statemented’then your local authority will recommend a school to you.

If you choose a mainstream school then mention about your child’s autism to their class teacher and discuss their needs with them. Ensure that they understand about your child’s condition and are able to deal with it.

It is a good idea to draw up a shortlist of schools and visit each in turn. Spend some time looking for the right school for your child. Some children prefer a school where they are placed in a small class with one to one tuition or a residential school with 24 hour support.


Sadly, autistic children are at risk of bullying compared to children without a disability which occurs for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, children do not understand about autism and how to respond to it and as a result of this, express their fear and ignorance of this by teasing or bullying the autistic child. This can take the form of name calling, verbal abuse or even physical abuse.

Plus there is a new form of bullying called ’cyberbullying’which is conducted over the internet and mobile phones. This may appear an insidious type of bullying but is no less upsetting and needs to be nipped in the bud.

Autistic children can be an easy target for bullies as they often stand out from other children. They display aspects of behaviour which other children consider ’odd’ or ’weird’ and find it difficult to make friends.

Plus they do not understand playground banter and the pecking order that exists in which children try to establish their place in the hierarchy. And autistic children are unable to tell the difference between friendly banter and manipulation or malign intent.

Conversely, some autistic children become bullies rather than the person being bullied without realising that they are behaving in this way. They may be excluded from a game or ignored by a group of children and their frustration at this is manifested as aggression or other forms of challenging behaviour.

If you notice a difference in your child’s behaviour such as being reluctant to go to school, coming home covered in cuts and bruises or an increase in anxiety and/or depression then speak to their teacher.

Ask your child about this and then approach their teacher or speak to the headmaster/headmistress. The school should have an anti-bullying policy in place which is designed to deal with cases of bullying. Another option is to educate your child at home.


Teenagers with autism attend college and/or university and benefit from this in the same way a non-disabled person does. They participate in a range of activities and have the experience of living away from home and managing for themselves, often for the first time.

But if your son or daughter is starting university then they will have quite a few things to deal with which include sorting out their student loan, moving into halls of residence, obtaining their timetable of lectures and seminars and participating in ’Freshers’ week’.

This is stressful for someone without a disability but even more so for an autistic student. Ideally, there will be a disability adviser or co-ordinator who will discuss all of these issues with you. They will advise you about Freshers’ week and other social activities as well as arranging for you to meet your tutors/lecturers.

This also includes registering with the university and the Student’s Union, opening a bank account and applying for a library card. Other tasks include registering with a GP and dentist and finding out about the various sports clubs and societies.

It is important that the autistic student does not feel pressurised into doing things they do not want to do or joining clubs which do not interest them. If you are a parent then advise them that it is acceptable to say ’no’or to inform a club or society that they do not wish to be a member.

After university

When your son/daughter is nearing the end of their course the next issue is what to do next. If they are at university then they will have their graduation ceremony to attend followed by looking for work. Encourage them to think about careers before they graduate and to discuss this with their university careers office.

Plus your local Jobcentre Plus office will have a disability employment adviser who can help and support your son/daughter whilst looking for work.

Find out more about employment in our adults with autism section.

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