Paula McGowan OBE, founder of the Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training on Learning Disability and Autism, has started a petition calling for a new law that would require all staff in educational settings to be trained in learning disabilities and autism.
The petition follows on from a report by the National Autistic Society (NAS) which showed that just one in seven (14%) secondary school teachers have received autism training.
A shocking statistic considering that nearly three quarters (73%) of the 180,000 autistic pupils in England are educated in mainstream schools.
Petition will be debated in parliament if it reaches 100,000 signatures
According to NAS, autistic children are twice as likely to be excluded from school when teachers do not receive appropriate training.
The School Report found that more than half (54%) of autistic students said having teachers who don’t understand them is the worst thing about school, and seven in 10 said school would be better if more teachers understood autism.
Training teachers in autism and learning disabilities could therefore help to avoid unnecessary exclusions and improve the mental wellbeing of autistic and learning-disabled pupils.
NAS is now calling for autism training to become mandatory for all staff working in educational settings, and this new petition would require Parliament to consider the proposal if it reaches 100,000 signatures.
At the time of writing, the petition has received more than 13,000 signatures, meaning the government is legally obliged to respond to the proposal.
Oliver McGowan training could “easily be adapted” for educational settings
Ms McGowan says it is “essential” that students are taught by staff who understand their needs, and that is why this training is so important.
“Students who have a learning disability or who are autistic deserve to be taught by staff who really understand and can support their needs. Staff that fully accept and value them for exactly who they are rather than expecting them to conform to the neurotypical standards.
“Teachers deserve to be given skills to really understand and support autistic students and those who have a learning disability to reach their full potential. It is essential that they know how to make reasonable adjustments, how to understand sensory crisis, overload and masking. They need to know how to adapt communication to meet the individual need. They need to be able to self reflect, and to be aware of unconscious bias. It is essential they are aware of the laws such as the Human Rights Act and the Autism Act,” she told LDT.
MsMcGowan says the training programme for health and social care staff could easily be adapted for educational settings, and would help to change “culture, hearts and minds.”
“As is the case for the Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training on Learning Disability and Autism for health and care staff, this adapted training for education will be designed, evaluated and delivered by autistic people and those who have a learning disability. It is crucial that we learn directly from these communities,” she said.