Page updated on: 14/02/2024

Autism (or autistic spectrum disorder) is a developmental disorder which affects the way a person communicates with other people and relates to the world around them. Children are affected in different ways. These can include:

  • Sensory issues – unusual responses to sound, smell, touch, taste and visual input
  • Speech and language  – lack of and/or unusual development of speech, literal interpretation of language and language processing difficulties
  • Repetitive or obsessive behaviours and intense interests
  • Social interaction – difficulties understanding social rules, behaviour and relationships
  • Social communication – verbal and non-verbal communication such as gestures, tone of voice, facial expressions
  • Rigidity of thinking and difficulty with social imagination

These problems present differently for each child. High levels of anxiety are commonly experienced by children with autism.

How will the school help?

Supporting children with social communication difficulties in the classroom is done by considering the children’s experience and making some simple changes. Schools’ good practice should include:

  • A language rich environment which encourages language learning
  • Clear, precise language reinforced with visual prompts, (words, symbols and pictures), to support learning
  • Differentiation of information and explanations
  • Modelling and teaching of social skills
  • Multi-sensory learning experiences and consideration of sensory differences
  • Adapting conditions and teaching style to suit particular needs of pupils (e.g. volume of noise, proximity in the room, time pressured tasks)
  • Elklan, Talkabout or other speech and language strategies
  • Screening and monitoring of progress
  • Discussion with parents and carers to get the most information possible, and using this information to inform planning and teaching
  • Awareness of children who think ‘differently’ and exploration opportunities which enable them to succeed                               

Children, young people, parents or carers should speak to the school initially for any questions about social, communication and autistic problems. 

Children and young people will be supported in different ways according to their needs within the classroom. They may need to work in small groups, sometimes with a teaching assistant to support needs or help identify need. Some children and young people who require additional support will be identified as having additional learning needs through a decision-making process

Advisory Teacher: Emma Wheeler, email: or Melanie Bray, email:

The following websites may be useful for more information:

Education & Schools