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(UK) SCOTLAND: 4.3 percent of students have autism; 1 in every 23

April 6, 2024, Herald Scotland : Have Scottish schools learned to accept autistic pupils?

For Autism Acceptance Week 2024, our education writer reflects on the experiences of Emily Bulcraig, who has written about attending school as an autistic person in Scotland. He also explores the data on the number of autistic pupils in schools, and asks whether acceptance is yet a reality in Scotland.

Scottish Government figures confirm that there has been a massive increase in the number of pupils registered as autistic (or, more specifically, as having an autism spectrum disorder or ASD) over the last decade or so.

In 2010, the total figure stood at 6,506; in 2014, the overall figure breached 10,000 for the first time; and in the most recent census, 30,179 pupils were registered as receiving additional support for ASD – more than all of those with physical and mental health problems put together, and just a few hundred short of the total number receiving support for dyslexia. . . .

We are not talking about a tiny group of people – almost every school in Scotland is likely to have several autistic pupils.

There are now 43 autistic pupils for every 1000 young people in our schools [one in 23], up from just 10 per 1000 in 2010. These young people also represent a larger proportion of all pupils with additional support needs. . . .

Those figures, combined with the data from the Scottish Government’s pupil census, tell us that thousands of autistic young people could be seriously struggling in our schools. But that shouldn’t be news, because organisations like the NAS, Scottish Autism and Children in Scotland have been warning about it for years.

We have more and more people needing support, and less and less capacity to provide it. How did we think that story was likely to end? . . .

Acceptance means being willing to recognise something fundamental: that all too often, we expect people live in a world that not only was not designed for them, but which has been built in ways that are hostile to them - and then we complain when those people do not (because they cannot) ‘fit in’.

It’s a much more subtle form of exclusion than the old-fashioned approach physically segregating people, but it’s a form of exclusion nonetheless.


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