3Contents PageWhat are Autistic Spectrum Disorders?Impact of ASD in Education SettingsThe importance of family and multi-agency workingTransitionsSecondary SchoolsPreparing for Leaving SchoolAccessing Further EducationApplying to University and accessing supportHelpful links and sources of further informationAuthors457891115172121
4What Are Autism Spectrum Disorders?Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are diagnosed when a childor adult has impairments in social interaction and socialcommunication together with impaired social imaginationand a narrow repetitive pattern of activities and interests.The term ‘autism spectrum disorder’ is a broad term thatrefers to the subgroups known as Pervasive DevelopmentalDisorders (PDD). These subgroups include Childhood Autism,Asperger syndrome, and other autism spectrum disorders,all of which are defined by the World Health Organisation’sinternational Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders.Research evidence indicates that 1 in 100 individuals havean autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) in the UK. It is believedthat within Wales today there are approximately 27,000 peoplewith an autistic spectrum disorder. Diagnosis involves acomprehensive assessment by an experienced team of cliniciansthat usually includes a detailed interview with the parent,specific psychological and language assessments and clinicalobservations. Referral for assessment and diagnosis enablesthe individual to access the most suitable support and adviceand evidence shows that suitable support and early interventionprovides the best outcomes for individuals with ASD. It is alsoimportant to be aware that ASD is commonly found together withother medical conditions, both physical and mental.Although population estimates show that Autistic SpectrumDisorders are relatively common, they are under diagnosed inthe current population, especially in adulthood. In addition someindividuals may have particular signs of ASD without necessarilyhaving the full syndrome of ASD that would result in a diagnosis.It is therefore important to have an awareness of the signs of thedisorder as many people coming into contact with individuals withautism may not be aware that this is why they are experiencingdifficulties. The content of this package is designed to provide aninsight into autistic spectrum disorders for professionals workingwithin Secondary Schools, and in Further Education Colleges
5and Universities. This booklet therefore will address issuesand topics that are universal to enabling the individual to makethe best use of their Secondary and further/higher education.Impact of ASD in Education SettingsAn understanding of how the Triad of impairments and sensoryissues will affect the way a person with ASD perceives theirenvironment is important when establishing classroom routinesand delivering the curriculum. It is also important to recognisethat having ASD will affect people in different ways and teachingmethods and strategies must be based on an individuals’ needs.Here are some general ways in which people with ASDexperience the world differently (taken from the Bridge tosuccess programme, adapted from the Early Bird Programme byRosie Jones and Siârlot Hall from a South Wales special school).Sensory differences• Can be ‘hypo’ (under) or ‘hyper’ (over) sensitive.• Sensory perceptual differences.• Takes longer to process information.• Can be monotropic - able to process only one sense at a time.Issues with sounds (auditory)• Distractions e.g buzzing lights, TV, music, other people.• Auditory defensive.• May not appear to hear (have tuned into another sound otherthan your voice).Issues with touch• Flinches/screams when touched, removes clothing,• Dislike of certain textures.• Likes to sit in tight corners/under tables.
6Issues with tastes and smells• Only eats food of certain colours/textures/tastes.• Resists trying new foods.• Reacts to different smells.• PICA - mouthing any object/substance.Issues with proprioception/proxemics• Do not know where their body is in space or how close to be.• Difficulty sitting in a chair or keeping still.• Flaps hands/arms.• Literally ‘does not know own strength’.• Difficulties with dressing/undressing.Issues with theory of mind• Difficulties understanding what other people are thinkingand feeling.• Theory of mind is usually in place by four years of age.Individuals know how to get around their parents and carersby using psychology. Individuals with ASD may use theirbehaviour instead.Memory• People with ASD may store and recall memories in a differentway to other people. They store their memories as discreteevents. They can replay each memory exactly, but do not makeconnections between them, so find it difficult to anticipateevents. They remember things that the rest of us have forgotten,but may have missed the point of the event.
7Language levels• The language level used with an individual needs to reflect theirlevel of understanding. Language needs to be simple, clear andunambiguous.Helpful Ideas• Use explicit choicest; the use of visual prompts e.g. symbolsand pictures will help with understanding.• Structured teaching (TEACCH, see Pre school/Primary leafletfor a fuller explanation), uses the physical room layout withexplicit areas for different activities.• A visual timetable where symbols are used to representtasks/activities Symbols can also be used to communicate(PECS, see Pre school/Primary leaflet for a fuller explanation).The individual may need tasks cued by visual, verbal orphysical prompts.• Sign language may be involved by the use of ‘Makaton’or ‘Signalong’ sign systems.The Importance of working with families and multi-agency collaborationRegular contact with the family of an individual with ASD willbe of mutual benefit. Parents will always know their child best,but staff can offer different perspectives. By working togetherand offering opportunities for regular dialogue, formally andinformally, will enable ideas and strategies to have a strongercontinuity and consistency. This improves the chance for success.The views of families will help prioritise learning plans andstructure. Home - school books or other formats (e mail/ MSNmessenger) will inform a parent/carer of individual’s day at schooland vice versa. Parent/carers will need to know how and whenis an appropriate time to make contact with the school and theirchild’s teacher/support assistant.
8Multi agency collaborationIndividuals with ASD often have a large network of professionalsworking to support them and their families.This support can be from:• Speech and language therapist.• Occupational therapist.• Physiotherapist.• Music therapist.• Play therapist.Referrals to Individual and Adult Mental Health Service (CAMHS)Specialist/outreach support teams, Social services,Carers/respite, Psychologists (Educational, Clinical) and Adultservices may also be a feature of support at various times duringschool life.Professionals involved in the care and education of individualswith ASD have a responsibility to communicate and collaboratewith each other for the benefit of the individual and alwaysin collaboration with parents/carers.Issues around transitionsThe change of one set of circumstances or setting to anotheris called a Transition. The individual with ASD may need a lengthypreparation and planning for transition. This is best done inconsultation with the professionals and parents and should takeinto consideration the individual’s needs and likely responses.The transfer from Primary to Secondary school at the age of 11will concern most children. Primary schools are generally smallercommunities. Secondary schools are on a much larger scale,involving multiple same age groups of pupils who attend lessonsgiven by subject specialists. Support staff, working in the Primaryschool, do not generally follow the individual into Secondaryphase. ‘Local’ secondary schools are located in areas of large
9population and so the individual in a rural area may need to travelseveral miles on school transport.Successful transition plans for the individual with ASD will include:• Ongoing dialogue between staff involved in transition plans fromPrimary and Secondary, parents and the individual themselves.• An accurate profile of the individual being shared including theirstrengths, preferences and friendship group.• Receiving staff understanding the nature of ASD and the keycharacteristics of particular individuals.• A buddy/mentor system by peers available.• Planning well in advance of the move, with preparation for theindividual involving several visits at different times of the day.• Having a visual record of the new setting, including photographsof key places and people and a chance to practise navigationof the new environment.Other transitionsMany individuals with ASD find difficulties with transitions fromone activity to another.Helpful IdeasVisual structures such as schedules using Objects of reference,photographs or symbols may alleviate the uncertaintyand reassure the individual and help them to understandwhat is about to happen.Secondary SchoolSocial integration is one of the most difficult things for pupilson the Autistic Spectrum to achieve as they move from juniorto secondary school and from Year 11 to further/higher educationplacements. At all stages of transition the aim is to provide pupilswith the skills and confidence to enable them to cope with thechanges and challenges that they will encounter throughout theiradult lives after they have left the formal education system.
10Helpful IdeasThe weekly timetable for the child will be much morecomplex and involve their navigation of a large environment.Successful transition strategies will help them, and others,find their way around.For pupils aged 11-14, there can be subject/curriculum flexibilitythrough the school’s access/inclusion statement, allowing the useof material from earlier (or later) key stages. For pupils with morecomplex needs, subjects may be used as contexts for learningand to address individual priorities, such as communicationand social skills. Current emphasis is on cross curricular,key skills including communication, personal and social skillsand thinking/problem solving. A focus on assessment for learningwill provide information to inform future planning.The curriculum for young people 14-19 should address equalityof opportunity and to offer a learning experience that will enableeveryone to achieve their potential. An increasing emphasison transferable Key Skills which engage the pupil in a rangeactivities in education, training, at work and in everyday life.AdolescenceFor the young person with ASD adolescence can bring difficultiesand stress as they try to comprehend and cope with so manychanges. This is another transition in their lives. Often informationabout body changes and relationships will need repeating throughtheir lives, as they can be ‘late bloomers’. Learning about socialand sexual issues should therefore be ongoing and not timelimited. Sexuality is not static; it evolves throughout life.At the time when their peers are making social groups anddefining their social terms, individuals with ASD can find socialacceptance a problem in adolescence when idiosyncraticbehaviour is tolerated even less.
11Preparation for ExaminationsThe Regulatory Authorities (Qualifications and CurriculumAuthority (QCA), Qualifications, Curriculum and AssessmentAuthority for Wales (ACCAC), CEA (Ireland) and Awarding Bodiesare working to ensure that examinations are as accessibleas possible to a wider range of individuals.Useful strategies might be:• Providing a separate examination room for the pupil.• Requesting extra time.• Presenting the paper on plain paper and in one colour.• Ensuring that instructions are clear, explicit and do not containabstract ideas.• Prompting the pupil to move on to the next question.• The use of word processors or scribes when pen control is poor.• Requesting that the paper has been scrutinized by someoneunderstands ASD.It is important that teachers work with pupils and their parentsto give early consideration to options to be taken at KS4.In addition, schools should make early contact with awardingbodies about possible access arrangements which maybe available for examinations.Preparation for leaving schoolThe curriculum at Key Stage 4 and Post 16 should be basedupon both present and future needs. For many pupils with ASD,it will be necessary to focus on independent social skills,work-related skills and leisure activities as well as NationalCurriculum requirements in order to ensure continuity betweenschool and post school life.
12There are also a range of vocational qualifications which maybe appropriate for some pupils. Other opportunities for wideraccreditation such as Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme,ASDAN may allow pupils with ASD to gain credit for theirspecific interests. Credit award schemes such as AQA Unitsof Accreditation and Open College Network can provide flexibilityto accredit wider learning.Pupils with ASD will need access to careers/work relatededucation, community participation and sporting/leisureand creative opportunities. These opportunities can be presentedto suit individual needs, settings, teaching and learning styles.Pupils should be encouraged to take responsibility for their ownlearning by setting targets, reviewing progress and recordingachievements. Feedback on progress and certification forachievement should be given whenever possible.It is usual for Year 11 pupils to have a one or two week workexperience placement.Young people with ASD are entitledto experience life in a work setting to give them an insight intogood work habits and post school aspirations. Work experienceplacements might also provide the opportunity to pursuea ‘special” skill or interest. They have certain strengths that areideal for the working environment. Love of detail and accuracyhelps them to retain their motivation and good performanceon repetitive tasks better than most other people. Wasting timeto engage in work place chit chat and gossip, or take longcoffee breaks will not be for them. They are honest, punctual,reliable and always stick to the rules! In addition, pupils with ASDlearn best from real life situations and access to work experiencecould equip them for life.
13A group of teachers who attend Autism Cymru’s SecondarySchool Forum were asked what they consider to be key elementsin preparation for employment. They suggested the following:• Good preparation is crucial.• Prepare pupils in advance - find out what sort of job they mightbe interested in.• Research jobs on the Internet - what do you need to do to carryout certain jobs. (interests, aptitudes, qualifications).• Look how to prepare - always being honest with the employeroffering awareness training for staff if necessary.• Using visual schedules.• Teaching interview skills and the social rules of the work placeand the language of work.• Considering what will happen at break and lunch times.• Identifying a work colleague who might act as a mentor.• Are there issues around medication?These points might serve as a useful checklist prior to a workexperience placement.Planning and preparation for employment needs addressingin advance in the classroom as part of the curriculum.Pupils may need encouragement to think positively about whatthey can realistically achieve and should collate a portfolioof evidence. This personal portfolio can be particularly usefulat interview and will emphasise the positives since the youngperson with ASD is likely not to score highly in terms ofcommunication, speaking and listening skills.
14Case StudyIn one Resourced Unit in a North Wales Secondary schoolpreparation for transition begins with a visit to final yearPrimary (Year 6) pupils who will be joining them in September.Staff and pupils from the unit meet them and get to knowthem.This happens gradually over the course of the school year.Parents of the new pupils are also invited to come to meet Unitstaff. This helps to establish the outline requirements for thechild in terms of support and understanding and parents are toldthat they can contact staff any time and play their part in thetransition process.After these initial meetings, parents may bring their childfor a school tour at the end of the day, when all is quiet.Children are encouraged to take photos for a scrapbook, or evenmake their own film of their new environment. Following onfrom this the pupil is invited to come along during lesson timeand sit and observe the unit in action. These sessions are keptshort until the pupil feels comfortable enough to cope withoutthe assistance of their own support worker.In July, all of pupils are taken on a residential outdoor educationcourse, and prospective new pupils are invited to come along.At this weekend all pupils are encouraged to cope with adifferent environment and novel experiences. This providesan ideal opportunity for everyone to get to know the newcomersand establishes friendships in good time for September.Away from the pressures and demands of school, bonds can beformed and shared challenges bring the young people together.For older students in Year 11, transitions to higher and furthereducation is facilitated through attendance at Link coursesand visits to open evenings at local sixth form colleges.The Careers Wales Advisor, who is specialised in meeting theneeds of young people with disabilities, is a key figure in thispreparation and becomes involved in the transition processfrom Year 9 onwards.
15Transitions to Further educationLike any transition already mentioned preparation andfamiliarisation will be the key to a successful move on.Many Secondary schools will operate local college linksand individuals with ASD may have already experienced somevisits/attendance to their local college. However, it is importantto stress that going part-time with your school peers and staffwill be a different experience from going independentlyfull-time. Parents and professionals can help to support the youngperson with ASD to help them organise and plan ahead as wellas ensuring the necessary personal skills are in place - timekeeping, getting up routines, personal hygiene, making choiceswith free time and how to use social facilities. Having copingstrategies at times of stress and a known person to act asa contact will also help.Suggestions to help a young person with ASD enteringFE college:• Be prepared to meet the student before the course starts.• Make your verbal information as explicit as possible and backit up, if necessary with written or visual information for thestudent to take as a permanent reference.• Student will need to be clear about what amount of study time(on their own) is recommended for your course.• Practical support in managing anxiety and stress maybe needed.• Targeted mentoring/coaching may enable to student to managesocial demands.By attending Annual Review meetings, the Career Advisor offershelp and guidance to both pupils and their parents.Past pupils often come to share their experiences of moving onfrom school to higher education. Younger pupils find these visitsvery reassuring.
16• The student will need explicit information, in advance, on wherethey can go or who they can see to assist with any issues thatmay arise.• The student may prefer Emails or other forms of written contactto face to face meetings.• It may be useful to look at the sensory load of any study/learning environment with the student to assess their levelsof tolerance and suggest any adaptations.• Independent study skills will need acquiring (and possiblyteaching) if the student does not already possess them.Access to support services and encouragement to discloseany additional learning requirements apply at FE as wellas HE establishments (see next section).The impact which ASD has on an individual is unique to thatperson. An individualised transition to college programme maybe needed for each student with ASD. There is no ‘one size fitsall’ in terms of finding what works for a person with ASD and soplans and strategies used for previous students on the spectrummay not apply to a current one.It may not always be possible to spot the student with ASDwho is not coping with their transition. Students who appearto take college in their stride may have developed good copingstrategies and will not want to appear in need of support.Some students will not disclose their ASD. Sometimes whenthis is the case, issues will surface at a much later date and maybe more tricky to remedy. A phase of transition needs to bearranged with dates for a regular review with a member ofstaff. That may help pre-empt minor issues turning into majorproblems over time.The transition phase may need to have attention to timetable,physical layout of the college and its satellites, work and studyhabits, social skills needed to relate to staff and other students
17Applying to UniversityApplications to the majority of courses in Higher EducationInstitutions are submitted via UCAS (the Universities andColleges Admissions Service). Applications are completed onlineand include a variety of sections which must be completed in full,including personal and educational information, university andcourse choices, a personal statement and a reference. As a partof this application process, it is vital that students are encouragedto disclose any special education requirements or disabilities:this will not affect their application in any way, but will providethe necessary information to the student support service atthe university to be able to put the appropriate level of supportin place.Accessing SupportSupport while at university comes in a variety of forms.Most universities will offer a personal tutor to each student.This is normally an academic member of staff within their homedepartment who can offer support in terms of the academicrequirements of the course, as well as pastoral issues.There is also a central student support service who can organiseequipment and/or services to meet the specific needs of thestudent, including Disability and Dyslexia support, financialsupport, counselling etc. Students should make any needs/issuesas well as structuring individual study periods to manage workdeadlines. Some students may need strategies for coping withthe sensory load that accompanies their college attendance.Individual tutoring/mentoring could also be a feature of thetransition phase.Taken from ideas in Breakey, C (2006) The Autism Spectrumand Further education. London: Jessica Kingsley.
18known to these services, as support cannot be offered unlessthe need or issue is made known to the support service.MentoringMany universities offer support for students with AS disordersthrough mentoring or buddying support. To find out more,contact the university or college with questions to find outabout the services they offer.In addition to this, students may be able to find supportthrough a local or national charity, such as Autism Cymruand NAS Cymru.Supported LivingMost students make the decision between staying at home forthe duration of their studies, or moving into a halls of residence.Both have positives and negatives, and these should be takeninto consideration. Staying at home provides a safe and familiarenvironment where the pressures of fitting into a social group arenot so keenly felt, and support is provided by experienced family.Living with people who understand ASD can also be beneficial.Living at the university, on the other hand, can offer a uniqueexperience for students to be a part of the student community.Whatever the student chooses, maintaining low levels of anxietywill be key to helping the student ‘fit in’ and achieve in all areasof their student life.Workload IssuesThe workload of a university or college course can be intensive,and students increasingly need to be able to demonstrateindependent research and group study skills. Support is availablefor specific needs such as Dyslexia in the form of equipment,and there may be support for typed-up lecture notes as well.Students should always inform the student support servicesand make them aware of all requirements so that a solutionmay be found.
19AssessmentAssessment is completed through a variety of small tests,independent study projects, group work and presentations,field work projects, laboratory work and examinations:the particular balance of these assessment methods dependsupon the degree scheme.Social Study SkillsMost universities offer a comprehensive range of supportsessions on themes such as ‘settling into life at university,’‘building friendships’, ‘how to research’ and ‘getting the mostout of your studies.’ These sessions offer the vital skills necessaryto help students make the most of their university experience.Financial SupportDedicated financial support is available for students with ASDin terms of student loans and maintenance grants. Loans areavailable to cover the cost of tuition fees, accommodationand living costs and are repayable once a student has enteredemployment paying above £15,000 a year. Maintenance grants(Assembly Learning Grant in Wales) help to cover living costssuch as food, bills etc. Maintenance grants are means-testedand priority is given to students from low-income homes.Disabled Student Allowance is a non-means tested governmentfund that is awarded to help meet the extra course costs students(including postgraduate students) can incur as a direct result ofa disability, specific learning difficulty or mental health condition.Student UnionMost Universities have a Student Union that provides a rangeof services, support and advocacy for students who becomea member. They provide its members with professionaland confidential advice on, for example, student’s rights,finances and welfare, employment, accommodation and evenqueries students might have about the course they are on orthe University where they are studying. The Student Union
20also offers a wealth of opportunities for students to meet peersor to try something new by organising events and activities,clubs and societies.Health and WellbeingUniversities will have a Wellbeing Officer, Nurse or evena University Clinic where students can get advice on healthand wellbeing issues. These may include accessing a GPor Dentist, referral to Student Counsellor or other healthprofessionals, immunisation, and travel abroad. It is importantif students are moving away from home that they registerwith a local GP and Dentist.Case StudyGoing to university can be a nervous time for any student.Anxiety about a new course, a new home, new friendsand a new lifestyle can be intimidating for any student,but especially for students with ASD, whose anxiety levelsare often heightened. It may be a good idea to visit universitycampuses regularly while applying to familiarise students withthe environment of the university. A South Wales Universityruns the Discovery Summer School, a two-day event aimedat helping young people with ASD experience student lifebefore they begin their course. Pupils engage in a variety ofactivities with their student mentor buddies, including shoppingfor food, cooking in student flats, going out for a coffee andorganising a social activity. Other universities also offer summerschools or similar opportunities to enable students with ASDto acclimatise to the university environment and discover whatstudent life is like.
21Helpful links and sources of further information:Links within Wales:• All-Wales Autism Resource: a bi-lingual information resourcefor ASD in Wales and each autumn runs the world on-lineautism conference featuring many of the world’s leadingeducators, clinicians, and researchers www.awares.org• The National Autistic Society website contains very usefulguidance and advice for teachers and lecturers www.nas.org.uk• Adam Feinstein, who is a both parent of a young man withautism and is employed in Wales by Autism Cymru, is theauthor of “A History of Autism, Conversations with thePioneers” published by Blackwells/Wiley. This includes themost accurate history to date of autism, the way it is currentlyviewed throughout the world and the approaches being usedby governments and those working with people with autism.This book is viewed as a modern ‘classic’ in the disabilities field.• Plimley, L. and Bowen, M. (2006) ASDs in the SecondarySchool, London:Sage Publications• The Autism Inclusion Toolkit: Training Materials and FacilitatorNotes (2008). Authors Maggie Bowen and Lynn Plimley.Published by Sage/PCP.The Authors of this Welsh Assembly GovernmentPublication are:• Lynn Plimley, Head of Research and Partnerships,Autism Cymru.• Sue Benbow, Teacher in Charge, Pembroke Dock Unit,Pembrokeshire.• Christine Cole, Additional Learning Needs Officer,Pembrokeshire.
22• Sylvia Fowler, Head of ASD Unit, Heronsbridge Special school,Bridgend.• Enid Moore, Centre Manager, ASD Resource, Darland school,Wrexham.• Gill Fairclough, Project development officer, Centre for Disabilitystudies, Glyndwr University.• James Vilares, Widening Access Officer, Student Recruitmentand Web Division, University of Cardiff.