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U.K.: "2.2 per cent [1/46] of school population recorded as having autism as their primary need"

Apr 22, 2023, Schools Week: Where is the improvement plan for marginalised children with autism?

Recent data from the DfE shows that approximately 2.2 per cent [1/46] of the school population have been recorded as having autism as their primary need and that this is increasing at an average of 9.5 per cent each year. With increasing numbers of children on the autism spectrum in schools, one would think that access to education for these children would be improving. Unfortunately, for many children from marginalised groups, this is not the case.

Recent research undertaken by the Autism Centre for Education and Research at the University of Birmingham has found that autistic children from marginalised groups – such as those from an ethnic group other than white British, those with English as an additional language (EAL), and those on free school meals and in care – face numerous and complex issues. We refer to these groups as marginalised because all too often their views are missing from discussions about autism and SEND provision. Sadly, this is also the case with the government’s recent SEND and AP improvement plan.

Our research found that while the overall rate of autism diagnosis is increasing, the likelihood of receiving a diagnosis varies on the basis of a child’s ethnicity, with children from communities such as white British and black African being over-represented in the school autism population, while children from Pakistani, Indian and other White backgrounds are under-represented. Similarly, children with EAL are less likely to get a diagnosis, while those on free school meals are more likely to.

While the government’s new SEND and AP plan recognises the need for diagnosis, it gives no consideration to how to address these differing prevalence rates, which indicate varying levels of awareness of autism in different communities as well as a lack of understanding among professionals about autism in children belonging to such marginalised groups….

The Guardian, 2021 Pupils in England ‘waiting up to five years for special needs plan’

Recent data shows that special needs are more prevalent among boys than girls, with nearly one in 20 boys having an EHC plan compared with nearly one in 50 girls.

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