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SEND• 3 Min read

30th June 2021

Autism In Mainstream Education

Autism affects around 1% of the population. In schools, 71% of those diagnosed with autism attend mainstream education, with the remaining pupils attending specialist schools. In most cases, pupils with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are able to function and excel in a mainstream school environment, but there are adjustments that teachers can make to make the experience of ASD pupils more engaging and comfortable.

What is Autism?

The National Autisitc Society describe Autism as a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people communicate and interact with the world. Children and young people with Autism might have difficulty communicating or interacting with others. This could affect their ability to build relationships with their peers. One common trait of ASD is an aversion to bright lights or loud noises, which can be a challenge in a busy classroom environment.

What Do Autistic Pupils Need In The Classroom?

As every pupil is different, there’s no definitive list of what a classroom needs to contain to be an environment that people with ASD can comfortably learn in. However, there are some small changes that can benefit not just ASD pupils, but your other pupils too, without a huge amount of effort or cost. The aim is to create a learning environment in which every pupil has the tools and confidence to thrive in.

Learn About Autism

There are plenty of CPD and training opportunities available for teachers who want to learn how to best support autistic pupils available online. Your school may also be able to point you in the direction of local information sources. Creative Education has a selection of webinars, courses and pathways focussed on Autism (Don’t forget that Engage candidates get free-forever access!) There is also lots of information available through the National Autistic Society.


Quiet or Reading areas are a common solution to providing a sanctuary from the chaos of the classroom in Primary schools, but there’s nothing stopping you from creating a quiet area for older pupils too. An overstimulating environment can have a negative impact on autistic pupils, so you might also consider the noise and light levels throughout the day. We’ve shared lots more ways to make your classroom more inclusive for all SEND pupils here.

Inclusive Activities

Reinforce inclusivity by using diverse examples and reading matter in your teaching that include SEND pupils. Booktrust have a fantastic list of books featuring autistic spectrum characters and themes of inclusive here. Plan groupings carefully – some pupils may struggle when put in groups with more overbearing students.

Create A Routine

In Secondary schools, routine is determined by timetable and should provide a strong structure to the day for all pupils, but it’s still possible to have a structured approach to your lessons that will help pupils keep track of what they are meant to do. In Primary schools, you’ll be responsible for planning your pupils day, and structured times for warming up, listening, independent work and winding down should be built into the day. A visual guide to the day can be helpful to Autistic pupils – find ideas on Pinterest.

If you have experience working with SEND pupils in mainstream schools and want to take the next step of your career in SEND teaching, find out more about our dedicated team and the amazing schools that they recruit for here.

SEND Careers with Engage

If you would like a new role teaching in a SEND setting on a permanent, long-term, or short-term basis, full or part-time, our expert SEND team will be able to find the perfect role for you at one of our fantastic partner schools.

Register here!

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