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Autism and EHCPs - What you need to know
Autism Awareness Week (set up by the National Autistic Society) runs this year from 30 March – 5 April 2020. It is a good opportunity to highlight the importance of how a good Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) can really make a difference for a child or young person (YP) with autism.
EHCPs are a legally enforceable document issued and maintained by local authorities for children/YP who have special educational needs (SEN) and require special educational provision to be made for them through an EHCP, meaning provision that is not provided through national mainstream school resources.
Many children/YP with autism have an EHCP maintained for them but it is important to make sure the content of that EHCP (Section B – needs, and Section F – provision) are clear, up to date and detailed.
Section B (SEN) is made up of four types of SEN:
- Cognition and Learning
- Communication and Interaction
- Social, Emotional and Mental Health
- Sensory and Physical
It is very likely that a child/YP with autism will have needs that fall into potentially all of these categories of SEN. For example they may have difficulties with:
- Communicating and interacting with their peers and making friends
- Anxiety, including around school attendance
- Rigidity in their thinking and when faced with a change in routine
- Fine motor skill difficulties, such as using a pen or pencil
- Sensory sensitivities to smell, touch and sound
Therefore, it is important that appropriate professionals have provided advice and information ahead of Section B being drafted. Children/YP with autism will likely need advice and/or an up to date assessment from some/all of the following:
- Educational Psychologist
- Speech and Language Therapist
- Occupational Therapist
Always look at each child/YP’s individual need in determining which professionals are appropriate to assess and provide advice in order to inform the EHCP either through a draft Plan or following an Annual Review. There may be other professionals who also need to assess the child/YP. We often see EHCPs where there is an outdated description of SEN in Section B, and this can also mean there is a lack of specified and quantified provision to meet those needs in Section F.
Section F (SEN provision) must have detailed, specified and quantified provisions to meet all of the child/YP’s current needs in Section B. The professionals who assessed the child/YP need to provide such recommendations. Remember, that these recommendations must be based on the child/YP’s individual needs and not what provision is only available through LA/NHS funding.
When reviewing Section F provision keep a look out for words such as ‘access to’, ‘opportunities’ and ‘high level of support’ which all show a lack of detail that is legally required. For each provision consider if it addresses the following:
- What – therapy or other provisions are being detailed?
- Who – will deliver this provision to the child/YP? Is this direct from the therapist or from a teaching assistant or teacher? Do they need to be experienced, trained or qualified in a particular specialism? Also, is the support to be delivered in a group and, if so, how many in this group?
- How often - will the provision be delivered? For example, daily, weekly, monthly?
- How long – will each session last? Is it for an hour, 30 minutes, 15 minutes or is it 1:1 support that is to be delivered all day?
As per the scope of needs that can be included in Section B, there is effectively no limit of what types of provisions can be set out in Section F to support a child/YP with autism. Provisions we have seen include:
- 1:1 teaching assistant support
- Direct occupational therapy
- Sensory integration therapy
- Direct speech and language therapy
- Support from a mental health professional
- Therapeutic programmes, such as Zones of Regulation
- Behavioural management programme
- Social skills groups
- Music therapy
Whether you have a draft or final EHCP you should always check if Section B and F are fully detailed, up to date and clear. Should any amendments need to be made, or updated professional advice required, then these can be raised through an Annual Review or an appeal of a final EHCP to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.
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