Friday, April 27, 2012

Launch of the A* for Autism campaign on SEN

The National Autistic Society Northern Ireland (NAS NI) is calling on all Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) to consider the needs of children with autism as they debate the reforms to the Special Educational Needs (SEN) system.

We have launched the A* for Autism campaign on SEN, which points to current failings in the education of children with autism in Northern Ireland.

Research carried out by the NAS NI found that over half of children with autism wait over a year for appropriate educational support and that almost one in three parents feel that the education their child receives is not adequate to their needs. 

Over 80% of parents who took part in our research say that a lack of support has harmed their children’s social and communication skills, and a further 65% said that a lack of support had affected their child’s mental health.

Shirelle Stewart , Co-Director of the  National Autistic Society Northern Ireland said:

“We hope that this campaign will enable children with autism to access an A* education that sets them up for life. Every area of Northern Ireland needs to have education provision that understands autism.

“It is completely unacceptable that so many parents have to battle to secure their child’s fundamental right to an education. The proposed reforms to the Special Educational Needs system will shape the future of a generation of children with SEN so the Northern Ireland Assembly must listen to parents when they say that the system must do better to meet their needs.”

Please ask your MLA to support A* for Autism

Click here to download a copy of the A* for Autism campaign report.  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fixing SEN?

Fixing SEN?
Last week a group of campaigners got together to discuss the Government’s proposals for reforming the special educational needs system. The focus group, held at the NAS’ Manchester office, brought together the expertise of people on the spectrum, parents and professional knowledge, and focused on what needs to happen to make the system.  Key issues that came up included:
  • the importance of schools talking to parents and listening to what they have to say
  • teachers having appropriate training in autism and relevant skills to work with children on the spectrum. Often these skills can look like good practice in working with other children but are particularly important for young people on the spectrum
  • the importance of autism and equality awareness among other pupils as well as staff
We are still waiting for the Government to publish its “next steps” report, but we will use the issues raised in the focus group to help shape the focus of our work and our recommendations as the Government makes further changes to the system.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Young Campaigners meet Education Minister, Sarah Teather

On 27 March the National Autistic Society’s Young Campaigners group met Sarah Teather, Minister for Children and Families.  They discussed how schools can be improved for young people with autism, as part of our Great Expectations campaign.

The meeting gave our Young Campaigners the opportunity to share their own experiences of school life and to campaign for changes in the provision of Special Educational Needs (SEN).

Following the Government’s proposal for reforming the SEN system, the group has been devising a campaign to ensure that children and young people with autism have more support and choice in school. The groups’ campaign has three simple aims:

  • For children and young people with autism to be involved in decisions affecting them.
  • For teachers to better understand pupils with autism and how to support them.
  • To ensure that all students have the same opportunities, whoever they are and wherever they live.
The Young Campaigners each put a question to the Minister about these aims and have asked the Government to:

·        Ensure that all students with autism have a personalised plan to monitor progress.
·       Ensure the Local Offer, proposed in the SEN and Disability Green Paper, includes meaningful information which enables young people with autism and their families to access support which meets their needs.
·        Publicise the best practice guide for School Council’s, which the group has created.

One campaigner, Tiernan, 13, explained: “I wanted to do this because I want to raise awareness of autism and related conditions so that I can improve the lives of people with autism and other Special Educational Needs. Sarah Teather seemed to listen and care about our experiences.  For people with autism, like myself, school can be a living nightmare.”

Take Action:

To pledge your support the campaign, please sign their e-petition at