Students with autism are twice as likely to be excluded from school

Due to inadequate systems and budget cuts, schools are twice as likely to expel students with autism

Students with autism are twice as likely to be regularly and unlawfully expelled from school for a fixed period of time than those without special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), a new study finds.

Over the past five years, every region of England has seen an increase in the number of school exclusions for pupils on the autism spectrum of between 45% and 100%. This is due to, among other things, the inability of staff to make reasonable adjustments for students, inadequate systems and policies, and budget cuts.

Research by the Autism Research and Education Center (ACER) at the University of Birmingham into the causes and implications of exclusions for children and young people with autism found that at least 25% of parents reported unofficial or illegal expulsions of their children.

“The impact of exclusions on students with autism and their families is profound and can last a lifetime – juggling financial pressure, time off from work and family mental health. We spoke to many people who feel often very isolated, unable to interact with friends and abandoned by the education system.”These are unusual times in terms of tight budgets and the impact of Covid-19, which has exacerbated this problem. However, we need a coordinated and concerted effort by the school administration, staff, specialist services and families to help children stay in school and progress.

Director of ACER Professor Karen Guldberg

The report points out that many autistic adults were still emotionally affected by exclusion, even in their 40s and 50s. Many feel a sense of injustice and anger. Some found that the exclusion had a negative impact on their later successes or that they had to work even harder to catch up.

The findings of this survey were presented to MP Huw Merrimanpresident of the all-party parliamentary group on autismwho commented: “This is a deeply concerning report, which strongly echoes the research of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Autism with the National Autistic Society.

“Exclusions can have a devastating and lifelong impact on children with autism and their futures and should never be an absolute last resort. We must do all we can to stop this negative trend, in particular by improving support for children and young people with autism and ensuring that all school staff have a good understanding of autism.”

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