The survey of more than 200 parents found that children in infant, primary and secondary education are being given inadequate support at school – due to a lack of funding, teacher training and an understanding of the condition.
Commissioned by the Hearts & Minds Challenge – a charity which supports children and families living with autism – the research revealed that 67 per cent of parents worry that their child is not supported appropriately at school, with more than half admitting that their child has experienced negative comments, or bullying, as a result of their condition. Parents described mainstream schooling as a ‘lonely’, ‘scary’ and ‘very anxious environment’.
Ian McGrath, founder of the Hearts & Minds Challenge, said: “Autistic children are currently being severely let down by the education system, as a result of resource, time and knowledge constraints being placed on schools at every level. While there are clearly some schools that offer the right care and consideration, there is still significant room for improvement in dealing with a condition that’s often seen as a ‘hidden’ disability.
“With 69 per cent of parents stating that schools are not appropriately aware of their child’s condition and receive inadequate support and information from central Government on how to sufficiently teach them, it’s clear that something has to be done to address this growing problem.”
The results of the research coincide with World Autism Awareness Month and the introduction of a nationwide schools campaign aimed at raising awareness of the challenges faced by autistic children in mainstream education.
Designed and developed by the Hearts & Minds Challenge, together with Autism In Mind (AIM), the ‘Bubble Day’ pack provides teachers with support and advice on the best ways to integrate autistic children into the classroom, while offering simple and enjoyable activities for pupils. The learning tools are designed to show youngsters in an easy and engaging way how autistic children feel and how they would like to be treated by others.
McGrath said: “School funding has been stripped back in recent years, adding extra pressure to those professionals who teach autistic children in mainstream education.
“The ‘Bubble Day’ information pack is intended to fill that gap and provide simple ways to support teachers. At the same time, it will help pupils to understand the feelings and behaviour of autistic children, who can often feel like they live within their own bubble and struggle to communicate with the wider world.”
To date, more than 700 schools have signed up to the campaign, with requests from schools in Spain, Pakistan and South Africa.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to complete this survey.