Autism and Educational, Health and Care Plans (EHCP)

Autism and Educational, Health and Care Plans (EHCP)

The National Autistic Society describes autism as a ‘lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them’. Autism is a spectrum condition meaning it affects people in different ways. People with autism may experience differences and impairments in social interaction and communication. People with autism also frequently experience a range of problems in areas such as their learning, language or behaviour. These can highlight the need for routine and difficulty understanding other people’s intentions, feelings and perspectives.

Although autism is not a mental health problem or learning difficulty, mental health issues are common among people with autism and it is estimated that one in three adults with a learning disability also have autism. Over the last 30 years, there has been a 25-fold increase in the diagnosis of autism and it is approximated that over 1% of the UK’s population are autistic, with around 700,000 people on the autism spectrum living in the UK today.

The Government created The Autism Act 2009 in response to the increasing rates of autism diagnosis, binding them to produce a strategy for adults with autism. In 2010, the first autism strategy for England, fulfilling and rewarding lives was published with the vision to ensure that ‘all adults with autism are able to live fulfilling and rewarding lives within a society that accepts and understands them’. This was updated in 2014 and renamed Think Autism, which expanded on the original themes as well as identifying new key proposals.

Approximately one in every 100 children in the UK has autism, with three times as many boys being diagnosed than girls. Although diagnosis rates have increased over the years, many children with autism still remain undetected. A study led by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen of primary school children in Cambridge found that for every three children who have been diagnosed with autism there are two more that have the condition but have not been given a formal diagnosis. This would mean that there are an additional 300,000 children in the UK who have not yet been identified.

71% of autistic children are educated in mainstream schools, and there are some difficulties that come with it. Generally most schools have a structured routine during lessons, however in periods of time such as breaks and lunchtimes there are certain issues that arise such as troubles with social interaction and possible sensory overloads in a noisy and unpredictable environment. Things like lunchtime clubs or a buddy system would potentially help children who might feel overwhelmed during breaks and lunchtimes, however 60% of teachers feel they have not had adequate training on how to teach children with autism, so tend to not be provided in schools due to lack of knowledge.

Additionally, an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) can be put in place to support individuals with special educational needs. In 2019, 14.9% of students in education had special education needs. 3.1% of all students have an EHCP.

An EHCP can provide for additional therapies, such as speech and language to assist with social communication, or occupational therapy to assist with sensory needs. The EHCP must also name a placement that is able to meet the child’s needs. Many children with autism are unable to access large noisy environments and this is where a small independent school with small class sizes may be the right placement. Many parents appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal to get the right level of support for their child and the right school.

Our Education team at Boyes Turner specialise exclusively in special educational needs; supporting parents through the EHCP process and helping children with learning disabilities get the extra help and support they need, in the right school for them.  Boyes Turner SEN Team can help at whatever stage you are at with your EHCP and can be contacted on 0118 467 6547 or via senexpertsolicitors@boyesturner.com.

This article was co-authored by Lily Smerdon and Daisy Fox.

 

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