This week is the first ever Schools' Autism Awareness Week: an initiative led by the National Autistic Society to highlight some of the specific educational requirements of pupils with autism.
I say "specific" but in fact pupils with autism want and require the same as all pupils: to be free from bullying and harassment, and to be known, understood, welcomed and valued as individuals.
Like all pupils they want to attend lessons that are meaningful and motivating, and have learning and behavioural targets that are challenging but achievable. They want to be taught in environments that are physically comfortable without painful or oppressive sensory stimuli, so they can concentrate on learning without feeling overwhelmed by intrusions such as painful lighting or other bodies crowding in on them.
They want opportunities for a life out of school, to have things to do and places to go. To be able to aim high, and be expected to get there and to be given the skills to achieve their aspirations and enjoy fulfilling adult lives. They also want their parents and carers to feel they are welcomed members of the school community, and to be appreciated for the knowledge and expertise that they can contribute about their child.
Resources to shape your practice
So let's make the most of Schools' Autism Awareness Week to check and reflect on our practice. Let’s make sure that we are meeting the requirements of all our pupils.
The National Autistic Society's website provides resources that staff can use to develop understanding within their school about some of the different and diverse ways that people experience being human. Example lesson plans for a range of year groups illustrate how some pupils need abstract concepts made more concrete and explicit guidance provided on social rules and expectations.
It’s important to ensure that other pupils understand why some peers don't always engage with them in the ways that they expect, how they can expand their own range of interactions to make connections and why it is worth the effort. If we are unsure how well we are doing this then the Autism Education Trust provides an evaluation tool to help identify how autism-friendly our school environments and practice are.
Nick Hodge (pictured) is professor of inclusive practice at the Autism Centre, Sheffield Hallam University. He tweets at @Goodchap62
You can tweet about Schools' Autism Awareness Week using the hashtag #SAAW2016