Education is the main intervention that autistic individuals receive to help them function within a neurotypical society, with high associated costs and very mixed outcome; recent estimates suggest only 15% of autistic adults are in full time employment, for example. There is little research investigating the pathways autistic individuals and families take to decide on and obtain suitable education services, which vary from residential special schools to mainstream provision with or without individual support. In particular, the voice of autistic people, families and even teachers or services involved in the decision-making process is rarely captured. This project aims to explore the education pathways for autistic pupils, using a mixed methods approach. This will include: analysis of existing data from the Social Relationships Study (SRS), which is part of the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS); focus groups and interviews with ASD individuals, their families and educational staff resulting in an online survey; and a mixed methods study of the tribunal process many parents must undertake to obtain their desired educational provision for their child.
With almost two thirds of parents believing their autistic child is not in a school that would best support them (National Autistic Society, 2011), and with an increased pressure on services to incorporate service-user feedback into policy and procedure, evidence-based research is needed to improve current practices for a fairer, more efficient and effective process to provide the right educational opportunities to every child on the autism spectrum.