Autism and Deafness: Guide

Joyce Sewell-Rutter and Stephanie Dawson | View as single page | Feedback/Impact

Educational Placement

Educational placement  in England

Choosing an education setting for a deaf autistic child will depend on several factors.  Although parents may wish to choose a local school it is possible that provision locally cannot support the needs of the child.  A placement in a resource provision for autism  or one for deaf children will depend on the relative needs of each diagnosis.  Sometimes a special school placement may be beneficial; compromise is often needed.

It is vital that local Autism and Sensory teams collaborate along with occupational and speech therapies in the best interest of the child.

It is important that both autism and deafness are supported; a peripatetic Teacher of the Deaf may be assigned to a special school or autism provision when there is no expertise in deafness.

Autistic and deaf friendly educational practice

Any education setting must take into account the particular needs of the individual. The levels of autism and deafness as well as cognitive ability will all

shape the teaching and learning programme.

Some general pointers:

  • do no harm;
  • reduce as much anxiety as possible and build in emotional resilience;
  • provide a stress escape strategy- eg room alone; stress toy; weighted blanket ;
  • provide choices and solutions,;
  • seek occupational therapy support, working to reduce hyper and hypo sensitivities rather than banning the trigger outright.;
  • use visual supports of the appropriate type;
  • establish a means of communication and use consistently;
  • use routines and social stories;
  • offer a quiet area with no visual distraction or peer company if appropriate;
  • establish learning style and strengths and work from these;
  • careful preparation for all transition times - from lesson to lesson, timetable change, from phase to phase; no surprises;

Sometimes negative behaviours are learned responses to a flight or fright context and they become habitual.  Hence it is important to assess early and establish what are the causes of fear and anxiety and reduce them.  It is necessary to have regard for the impact on other learners in the context.

Autism friendly classrooms

Autism Education Trust training programme: Autism affects around 1 in 100 children and adults. All professionals working in educational settings should be prepared to support children and young people with autism – and all staff should have a basic awareness of autism and the needs of individuals.

Autism Toolbox is a resource created to support teachers in Scottish schools to make personalized resources for pupils using the structured teaching approach TEACCH.  Sometimes all you need is an idea and you can see how to develop and expand it for your own learners.

Practical classroom strategies designed for those with speech and communication difficulties may also be useful. 

ICAN provides useful Factsheets: