Reasonable adjustments possible at school

Here are some possible reasonable adjustments that can be established in schools to make neurodivergent pupil’s school careers more equitable with their peers. All schools, employers, local authorities and shops or services like leisure centres have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people under the Equality Act, 2010.

This may mean:

  • Changing the way things are done
  • Changing a physical feature, or
  • Providing extra aids or services

Going Into School and the School Day

  • Should be able to go in at a different time to avoid crowds
  • Provide an alternative to the school bell
  • Uniform regulations need to be relaxed on an individual basis for sensory reasons
  • Check attendance and behaviour policies to make sure they are inclusive of all pupils including those with SEND
  • Check policies on exclusions to make sure pupils are not being punished for behaviours relating to their SEND
  • Have a whole school understanding of neurodiversity
  • Understand and teach others about interoception and alexithymia
  • Understand and teach others about communication styles and how they differ across neurotypes – difference not deficit
  • May require a dedicated teaching assistant who understands the child, preferably one who is autistic
  • Give understanding support over change and transition and consider small as well as big transitions
  • Play therapy or lego therapy may be appropriate (as long as it isn’t trying to modify autistic behaviour)
  • Speech and language therapy may be beneficial (as long as it isn’t trying to modify autistic behaviour)
  • Develop an active relationship with parents and communicate about the school day – not just academic or behavioural stuff
  • Even at secondary, copy parents in on important communication
  • Support students to be able to independently chunk and plan tasks in a way that works for them
  • While not all autistic students think visually, a visual timetable adapted for how they process information may be helpful
  • As always, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. All autistic children are different and will have variable strengths, interests and support needs

In the Classroom

  • Make sure the child knows what’s going to happen – no sudden surprises
  • If you promise something, keep that promise
  • Sitting at the front/back/near doorway of the classroom (student’s choice)
  • Use of fidget toys – may be restricted to those that don’t make a noise
  • Seating that allows movement
  • Movement breaks as necessary
  • ‘Timeout’ card to leave class (but child may feel too self-conscious to use it)
  • Tasks to be chunked down and presented in different formats appropriate to the learner
  • Instructions to be written as well as verbal
  • Use of voice to text software, reader pens, scribe etc
  • Modelling the work and/or providing a visual explanation (though not all autistic children are visual learners of course)
  • Use of ear-defenders/noise-cancelling headphones and music if required
  • Adapt lessons to pupil’s passionate interests (see section on Monotropism in our white paper here)
  • A laptop may be preferable to writing – but listening and taking notes at the same time may not be possible
  • A ‘sensory diet’ may be crucial to school bearability – needs Occupational Therapist input
  • Provide specific and adapted sex/relationship education which uses clear and unambiguous language and is inclusive (see the section on this in our white paper here)
  • Keep shouting and telling off (by the teacher) to a minimum. The autistic child may not differentiate between the whole class or another group being told off and them being told off
  • Do not force an autistic child to take part in group work with students they don’t know, or be called on in class
  • Do not change seating arrangements without prior preparation
  • Consider not giving neurodivergent children detentions/exclusions at all, but definitely not for anything caused by executive function or processing issues eg. Forgetting equipment, being late, being unable to find the class, being slow to get changed, being slow to form a group
  • Understand that other neurotypes experience the world in a different way to you – not better or worse but different

At Break Times

  • At least one special person who understands that student and who they can go to if needed
  • Some structure and scaffolding for neurodivergent pupils
  • A safe place to go to eat or chill out
  • An alternative to the dining hall to get food, or the facility to go in without all the other pupils
  • Clubs which are interesting for your neurodivergent pupils and NOT just the same old sports and computing clubs, eg. Anime, Pokemon, K-pop, rock painting, etc.
  • Access to an area for sensory input and regulation
  • Relaxation of food rules if ‘safe foods’ are not what is considered healthy eating
  • May need adult support to be reminded to eat and drink
  • A mentor/TA/LSA should know the pupil well enough to be able to recognise situations which will be difficult to navigate and provide scaffolding
  • Any ‘interventions’ or therapies should be neuro-affirmative and not seeking to make an autistic child more neurotypical (eg. Not teaching to make eye contact)

In exams

  • Any accommodation that is usually given in class
  • Extra time
  • A quiet room – may need to be on their own
  • Specific teaching (preferably informed by a neurodivergent teacher) to be able to interpret ambiguous (to a non-neurotypical person) wording in exam papers

School Work at Home

  • Little to no homework at home
  • Where possible ‘homework’ should be done at school

Literally anything is possible!