Monday 19 August 2019

Options for autistic kids in Further and Higher Education

Boy in library

Anthony has left primary school and is heading to secondary school.  Through school, as a child with autism and ADHD, Anthony has had some support to help him.

He's legally required his support through a document called an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).  The great thing about this is that, it may support him all the way up to 25, if he needs it.   Because who knows what options he may take when he makes his next move up in education.

We live in England, so like all other kids, Anthony will have to stay in education or training until he is 18. However, he won't need to spend all his time learning - he could combine it with training or with paid or unpaid voluntary work.  So he might move to another school, go to a further education mainstream or specialist college, do an internship or apprenticeship or some other kind of work experience.  I know it's clearing at the moment and kids like my future Anthony will be thinking about their options.

Support in Further Education

Further Education (FE) is every kind of education after 16 except for going to university, which is called Higher Education (HE). Most FE colleges have lots of different things to study but some may be more focused on one area of study than another, for example health & beauty, art, business or mechanics. Some colleges can even give a start via professional qualifications. Many courses are also full-time or part-time.

Although part-time might seem a way of combining study with work, it can also be used to combine with other things, like learning to live more independently, being with family or simply give more time to complete work.  Anthony always needs more time to process and produce work, even when he's good at a subject.

Local authority's website and school SENCO's can help find local colleges. Like other primary and secondary schools, some colleges are better than others at being inclusive and supporting young people with SEND.

Also like in school, all colleges will have a SENCO, though they may also be be called disability coordinator or learning support. These people should be able to help in similar ways to the SENCO we already know. And if an EHCP is in place then the college will work to this too.

Support in Higher Education

In HE things aren't quite as straight forward as universities aren't covered by the same SEND Code of Practice that FE colleges are. However, some universities organise summer schools for people on the autism spectrum giving young people the chance to try out university before deciding to apply - you can find out more of these and some other great information this from Ambitious About Autism.


Anthony can sometimes simply be overwhelmed by the amount of people and input he's getting. Sometimes it's better to look at something that means a child can work at their own pace. Here's where the internet may help.  An online or home study course may be a good idea and having an area to support this will help him with his organisation.  Things like Open University  covers many topics that might be of interest

Whatever Anthony decides to wants to do then he could also get help from the National Autistic Society Further and Higher Education support service too. This student support service is usually funded by Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) but could also be funded by any other means.

It seems like a long way off as we approach just getting Anthony into secondary school, but in many ways it's reassuring to know that wherever his paths goes and whatever he chooses - he may have options available to him to do what he wants.

Wishing the best to all those going through the process at the moment.

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