Autism and education in Australia

In 2018, two research reports, Community Attitudes & Behaviours towards Autism and Experiences of Autistic People and their Families, were commissioned by Amaze and conducted by the Social Research Centre at Australian National University and the Centre for Health and Social Research at the Australian Catholic University.

The second findings release centred on education.

What did we find?

More than 1 in 100 Australians are Autistic, making it likely that there is an autistic student in almost every classroom in Australia; however, a lack of understanding of autism within the education system means we are failing these students.

The research found that Autistic students have the worst educational outcomes of any students with a disability, with more than half (56%) saying they’ve been treated unfairly to some degree.

We know that Autistic students are 50% less likely to obtain a bachelor’s degree compared to students with other disabilities.

Many Autistic students change schools multiple times, with these rates doubling from primary school (24%) to secondary school (44%) as students’ needs remain unmet.

Additionally, the research shows that more than 50% of Australians believe or are unsure if schools can refuse to enrol Autistic children, demonstrating that Autistic students face barriers in accessing an education before they even reach the school gate.

Despite the report’s disturbing results, there is strong public support for much needed change, with 74.1% of Australians agreeing that schools should make adjustments to improve the educational experiences and outcomes for Autistic students.

More financial resourcing is needed to build the capacity of schools to support Autistic students – however, a critical first step is for schools and educators to actively promote and embrace a culture of inclusion, where difference is seen as a benefit not a burden.

How can schools do better?

In response to the report’s compelling findings, Amaze released a list of 10 practical adjustments that support Autistic students, which schools can adopt to improve students’ experiences and outcomes.

  1. Modify the curriculum
  2. Change assessment techniques
  3. Extra classroom support
  4. Establish clear routines and avoid changes
  5. Adjust sensory environment (noise, light, smell, textures)
  6. Support Autistic students outside the classroom
  7. Clear communication between school and home
  8. Deal with bullying effectively
  9. Working with other students
  10. Create a ‘classroom timeout break’

Schools may find they are employing some of these adjustments already and the list will provide further ideas to create a supportive educational experience for Autistic students.

Get the facts on autism and education

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