Autism and EHCPs: What You Need to Know

23rd August 2023

For parents and carers of children on the autism spectrum, understanding how to access and maximise support can be daunting. One critical tool at your disposal in England is the Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). In this blog post, we’ll delve into the connection between Autism and EHCPs, and help you understand this potentially invaluable resource.

The Basics: What is an EHCP?

Let’s start with some basics. The EHCP is a legal document that lays out a child’s educational, health, and social care needs, from birth to 25 years old. It’s essentially a detailed plan that ensures all individuals with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), such as autism, have the required support to achieve their full potential.

Unpacking Autism

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others. It’s a spectrum condition, meaning it affects individuals in different ways. Some people can live relatively independent lives, while others may need a lifetime of specialist support.

Can You Get an EHCP for Autism?

Yes, absolutely. Children and young people with autism can qualify for an EHCP if their needs cannot be met within the resources normally available in their educational setting. Remember, the EHCP is not just about academic progress, but also about medical, social, emotional, and personal development.

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The Assessment Process

If your child has been diagnosed with autism and it is impacting their education, you can request an EHCP needs assessment from your local authority. This assessment involves gathering evidence from you, your child’s school or other educational setting, and relevant healthcare professionals to determine whether an EHCP is necessary.

The legal test that the LA must apply is found at section 36 (8) Childrens and Families Act 2014:

  1. The child or young person has or may have special educational needs
  2. if it may be necessary for special education provision to be made for the child or young person in accordance with an EHCP plan.

The key issue is whether an EHCP is required to provide the special educational provision. If it is, the EHCP is necessary.

Section 9.14 of the SEN Code of Practice identifies additional considerations and factors which bear little resemblance to the statutory test (with its focus on progress made and related matters). The LA will seek to apply these considerations as part of their LA Policy. Normally the Policy imposes a higher level of access than the legal test. Officers will seek to apply the LA policy. We and the Special Educational needs and Disability Tribunal will apply the legal test.

If the authority concludes that your child’s needs cannot be met within the resources normally available to the school, they will proceed with drafting an EHCP. If they do not think the child needs an EHCP then you will have the right to appeal to a Tribunal within 2 months of the letter from the LA telling you that they are not going to proceed further.

Personalising an EHCP for Autism

If your child is granted an EHCP, it’s critical to ensure it is personalised to cater to their unique needs.

The plan is required to by law identify all of the child’s special education needs, identify all of the provisions to meet each of the identified needs and that provision has to be specific, detailed and quantified and it has to name the educational setting.

The plan should offer comprehensive strategies that help manage the child’s challenges and promote their strengths. This may include:

  • Social skills training: Many children with autism struggle with social interactions. Social skills training can provide these children with essential tools to navigate social situations.
  • Speech and language therapy: This can help children with autism improve their communication skills, including non-verbal communication.
  • Occupational therapy: This can assist children in developing skills for daily living, such as dressing, eating, and handwriting. For many children with ASD one of the key issues is the management of their sensory needs and this can be addressed by the OT using sensory integration strategies.
  • Behavioural interventions: Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and other strategies can help manage challenging behaviours and encourage positive behaviours.
  • Sensory integration therapy: Many children with autism have sensory sensitivities. This therapy can help them manage and respond to sensory stimuli.
  • Specific educational strategies to be used in the classroom including class size and additional support staffing.

Navigating the world of autism can be challenging for both children and their families. However, an EHCP can be a valuable asset in ensuring your child gets the necessary support to thrive. The process of getting an EHCP may seem complex, but it is worthwhile to see your child succeed in their unique way. Remember, every child deserves an education that suits their needs and enables them to shine.

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