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Autism and Education

Getting the right support for your child

Home > About Autism > Education


Autistic children and young people often require additional support in education. Getting the right support is crucial to every child’s learning and development.

Education is a devolved area so Scotland is responsible for making its own policies in this area. The national curriculum for children in Scotland is known as the Curriculum for Excellence, which covers everything that is planned for children and young people throughout their education, not just what happens in the classroom, from the ages of 3-18 years. Additionally, the government has developed a national approach to improving outcomes and supporting the wellbeing of children and young people by offering the right help at the right time from the right people – this is known as ‘Getting it Right for Every Child’ (GIRFEC).

The Children and Young Person Act 2014 (Scotland) became law on 27th March 2014. It contains several changes to how children and young people in Scotland are cared for. You can read more about this on the Children and Young People’s Commissioners website.

Additional Support for Learning

Additional support for learning is a term used when a child or young person needs extra help and support to get the most out of their education and learning opportunities. For children with additional learning needs, there are two Acts which make local authorities legally responsible for providing that support.

The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Acts 2004 and 2009 state that: ‘The key duties on education authorities are to identify, make provision for, and review provision for the additional support needs of children and young people for whose education they are responsible.’

What are additional support needs and how are they identified?

It is important for any additional support needs to be identified early so that appropriate support can be put in place for your child. There are a range of reasons why a child may require additional support for learning. The most common for autistic children can include:

  • Communication difficulties
  • Behaviour that may affect their learning
  • Sensory difficulties
  • Being bullied
  • Not attending school
  • The learning environment is not appropriate for a child’s needs

Teachers will normally identify children in their class who require additional support for learning. However, if you feel your child’s needs are not being identified you can make a formal request for your child’s needs to be assessed to find out if they have additional support needs. This request must be made in writing and should explain why you are making the request, what needs your child has and details of any previous assessments or diagnoses already carried out. The local authority must comply with your request and can only refuse if it considers your request to be unreasonable.

What does additional support for learning look like?

Once an additional support for learning need has been identified, there are several methods that can be put in place to support your child. These include:

  • Adapting the curriculum to meet the needs of the child
  • 1 to 1 or small group teaching
  • Support from a classroom assistant or additional support needs assistance
  • Access to therapy within school such as speech and language therapy
  • Attending a special unit or school

Education for autistic children and young people 

Generally, for autistic children and young people, there are five main education settings:

  • Your child is educated within a mainstream class and does not require any additional support.
  • Your child is educated within a mainstream class but with additional support for learning put in place.
  • Your child is educated in a mainstream school within an additional support needs unit with other children who also require additional support.
  • Your child is educated within a specialist school for additional support needs that cater to a range of additional support needs and conditions, including dyslexia, learning disabilities and autism.
  • Your child is educated within an autism specific school.

The option that is right for your child will depend on many factors including how much additional support they require and how they cope within each of these environments. Sometimes a child will experience learning in a few of these different environments before the right provision for them is found. 


Sometimes parents call on the support of an independent consultant or advisor who can help them if they are having difficulties gaining a referral to a specialist education provision for their child.

Useful links

For independent advice and guidance, Enquire can offer you the support you need. Enquire provides independent and impartial advice for teachers, parents, local authorities and others caring for or working with children and young people with additional support needs. They also have a comprehensive parents guide to additional support for learning that may be helpful.  


Autistic children and young people often require additional support in education. Getting the right support is crucial to every child’s learning and development.