New approaches in education for people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder

Published: 10 Jul 2014

Author: Tim Leyshon
New approaches in education for people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder

Tim Leyshon, a deputy head from Pontyclun in Wales, has just returned from a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship to the United States, Denmark and Spain. Tim was looking at how other countries are responding to the rise in numbers of people diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the implications for special needs education.

It is estimated that about one in every 100 people in the UK has ASD*, and as a teacher Tim has come across many children living with the condition.

I’m deeply interested in the development of children with profound special needs. My MEd focussed on autism and my school is implementing an evidence-based intervention called DIR (Developmental, Individual-difference, Relationship-based). However, as Deputy Headteacher, I meet many situations where the school and family struggle to deal with difficult situations. In some instances, both teachers and parents find it challenging to understand and deal with the child’s behaviour.

Tim’s Fellowship took him to a number of schools, several of which are world leaders in special education. He found that the most successful establishments focused on creating highly individualised and differentiated learning experiences, personalising the curriculum to meet children’s needs. In Denmark, close supportive parental links were making a substantial difference to pupils’ outcomes and to the health and wellbeing of the whole family. 

Other innovative initiatives included a social enterprise set up by a group of families in the Basque Country, which provided an integrated, inclusive and ‘whole life’ suite of services and facilities. Services including early diagnosis, training and employment, sheltered housing, healthcare, specialist research and community outreach.

Tim intends to share what he learned from these novel and exciting approaches with colleagues in the UK, to develop more inclusive, joined-up services.    

*NHS online

For more information: [email protected]

Notes to Editors

This Education initiative will be supported by a partnership with The Farmington Trust ( to jointly fund a further four Fellowships a year from 2013 to offer educational opportunities to future head teachers to undertake research on educational values and standards, to familiarise themselves with educational developments, and to improve their leadership skills.