In a study published today in the British Journal of Psychiatry, researchers from the UCL Institute of Child Health (ICH) have demonstrated that up to a third of children who are at risk of being excluded from school for disruptive behaviour could have undiagnosed social communication problems of an autistic type. This replication study used individual clinical assessments to confirm the authors’ provisional investigation at the same schools.
This latest study focussed on 16 primary schools in the London borough of Hackney where teachers elected to undertake detailed questionnaire surveys about the behaviour of pupils they considered to be persistently disruptive. Upon further analysis of these surveys, through parental interviews and direct observation, experts concluded that 35 per cent of the 26 children who underwent diagnostic tests had social communication problems that had been hitherto undetected by a professional.
Professor David Skuse who led the research is Head of Behavioural and Brain Sciences at the ICH. He also manages the UK’s National Centre for High Functioning Autism, based at Great Ormond Street Hospital NHS Trust (GOSH). He explains:
“Our research shows that many children who get into trouble at school are being labelled ‘disruptive’ or ‘aggressive’ by their teachers and peers, when in reality they are displaying behaviours that are consistent with traits we see in clinically diagnosed autism. The children involved in our study have been recommended for appropriate treatment and their educational needs should now be recognised and adjusted accordingly. Teachers should be supported to identify these children before they are unfairly excluded from school and they miss out on the education and learning opportunities they deserve.”
Mark Lever, National Autistic Society chief executive said:
“We know that many children with autism are unnecessarily and inappropriately excluded – often more than once – from school, and that this can have a hugely detrimental effect on them and their families.
“Parents tell us that a lack of awareness and understanding in schools means teachers often put their child’s behaviour down to naughtiness or poor parenting rather than recognising that it arises as a result of their disability and the failure to support them properly.”
“Even when their needs are recognised, many parents have told us that it took over a year for their child to actually start receiving the support they needed. Autism is a serious, lifelong and disabling condition, but the right help at the right time can make an enormous difference."
For further information contact the GOSH-ICH press office:
Melanie Vessey, press officer, 020 7239 3178, email@example.com
Hayley Dodman, press officer, 020 7239 3126, firstname.lastname@example.org
For genuine and urgent out of hours call speak to switchboard on 020 7405 9200