A free online resource developed to support the inclusion of autistic learners in Scottish Early Learning and Childcare settings, Primary and Secondary schools.

Partnership Working and Roles

Supporting learners is a collaborative process which involves effective partnership working between professionals, families and the learner where possible. This is particularly important and helpful when identifying and planning support for an autistic learner.   


The role and views of the parents, carers, and child or young person are extremely important and can provide valuable information to support assessment and monitoring. Learning targets are more likely to be reinforced at home if parents have also been centrally involved in planning. Planning is considered to be most effective when the young person's views are taken into account. There is a clear consensus that joint planning at the earliest possible stage is most helpful in meeting children's and young people's needs. Early and good communication between education staff, allied health professionals and parents is more likely to lead to coordinated and appropriate planning, support and monitoring for each individual child.

Roles

It is helpful to understand the roles various practitioners have within the collaborative process of supporting and identifying autism.  

Education Authorities

Education authorities are required to identify and support the additional support needs of each child or young person for whose school education they are responsible.  They should: 

  • Provide transparent information and guidelines to staff and the public on their processes to support additional needs 
  • Provide appropriate professional development opportunities 
  • Ensure that the entitlements of Curriculum for Excellence are available and that the legal frameworks are followed. 

Classroom Teacher

Support for all learners begins within the classroom and is provided by the classroom teacher who holds the main responsibility for nurturing, educating and meeting the needs of all pupils in their class and who ensures early identification of pupils' additional support needs, plans, delivers and reviews curriculum programmes. 

However, this does not mean that class teachers are responsible for the formal identification of autism. It means that they play an important role in the initial stages and the continuing monitoring and assessment of learning – as they do for all their pupils. 

The principles for the assessment of additional support needs are no different to those for Curriculum for Excellence. Information which is gathered on a daily basis by class teachers as part of their curriculum moderation and assessment can provide a significant contribution to support assessment. The information gathered reflects the learner’s presentation in class and can include examples of:  

  • Observations e.g.  how the learner interacts with peers and staff  
  • Pieces of class work – e.g. differentiation required, structure of the learners writing   
  • Opportunities for dialogue with the learner and their family to establish strengths and areas of difficulties.  

Support for Learning Teacher (SfL/ASN Teacher)

The Support for Learning or Additional Support Needs teacher works in partnership with parents and appropriate practitioners to meet the additional support needs of children and young people within their local authority's staged intervention process. They assist class teachers and school management to ensure that children who have additional needs have those needs identified and met within Curriculum for Excellence. 

Support should be delivered through the 5 well established roles of the Support for Learning teacher which are all complementary and are explained below. 

Consultancy can take place in many forms: from simply giving advice to working collaboratively with individuals or departments. Effective learning and teaching strategies may be discussed and developed and suitable resources identified and made available. 

It is important to discuss and reach conclusions on issues such as meeting the needs of learners with a variety of different needs, not just concerning literacy, but also behavioural issues with implications for classroom management, motivation etc. There is likely also to be help regarding the most appropriate resources for the identified needs of individual learners.

SfL/ASN teachers may teach alongside class teachers in the classroom. Clear aims should be set out beforehand and subsequently reviewed. This helps provide direct support to, and monitoring of, the progress of all pupils in class, as well as developing classroom strategies with the subject teacher and assisting in recording and assessment. 

Sometimes it is helpful for pupils, individually or in small groups, to work out of class with a member of SfL/ASN staff. This can aid the ongoing process of dynamic assessment and establish what is likely to work best. Blocks of support may be given to larger groups of pupils to focus on development of specific skills. Though this works in primary schools, it is particularly important in secondary schools in preparing learners for important exams and applying for further and higher education. SfL/ASN will be involved in planning and delivering specialised/focused programmes.

Working with colleagues to ensure the early identification of pupils' additional support needs. SfL/ASN will be involved with observations, formative and summative assessments, screening and dissemination/feedback to parents/carers/staff/multi agency colleagues. 

The SfL/ASN teacher/department holds information on individual pupils and is involved in further ongoing assessment and support when this is appropriate. The SfL/ASN teacher has some delegated responsibilities for ensuring that information on individual pupils is appropriately disseminated both in school and to external agencies and parents.

Partnership working is very important to ensure a holistic approach is taken in gathering information and placing the child/young person at the centre. Support teachers will be in regular contact with colleagues in schools/educational services and multi-agency colleagues e.g. health, social work and voluntary organisations.

The SfL/ASN teacher/department contributes to staff development and professional learning in a variety of ways through: 

  • Sharing of insight, experience and resources 
  • Presentation of in-service sessions, e.g. twilight sessions 
  • Offering guidance on accessible resources/materials, curriculum, equipment and approaches 
  • Sharing effective strategies, disseminating information from courses attended 
  • Disseminating information to staff on local authority procedures, legislation and guidelines.

The role of the Educational Psychologist within local authority schools is to offer advice and intervention to young people, parents, schools and the Education Service. The identification of autism within the school setting is not carried out by an Educational Psychologist. However they may provide consultation on the assessment, identification and educational planning for autistic learners.  

This may include working: 

  • With individual pupils and the staff who support them in contributing to the assessment process and giving advice on learning approaches. 
  • With staff in reviewing assessment methods and evidence of dyslexic difficulties, as well as providing staff development and training. 
  • At school level in validating Assessment Arrangements, as per Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) guidance. 
  • With parent groups, voluntary organisations, and other bodies in ensuring shared understanding of up to date developments in approaches to literacy, numeracy and other matters relating to autism 
  • At authority level and nationally in contributing to and ensuring that there is appropriate and effective policy and guidance, including research and development.

Autism is a social communication difference and autistic learners will experience difficulties with social and practical skills – this will vary considerably from individual to individual. Where these difficulties affect the child's everyday life, the role of the Occupational Therapist is to work with parents/carers, teachers and others to assess the difficulties the child is having with these skills.  They will then work to enable the child or young person to be as physically, psychologically and socially independent as possible. 

Requests for assistance for Occupational Therapy Services can come from a variety of sources and this varies across the country. All referrers must ensure the request is made with the parents' consent.

Some autistic learners may experience physical movement problems. Physiotherapists work with children and young people with movement disorders, their parents/carers, teachers and others. The aim of the Physiotherapist is to help the child or young person reach their full potential through providing physical intervention, advice and support. 

Referrals to Physiotherapy can come from a variety of sources and this varies across the country. All referrers must ensure the referral is made with the parents' consent.

Autistic learners experience speech, language, communication and social interaction difficulties affecting nonverbal and verbal communication and or social understanding or social communication difficulties. They may present at a preverbal stage of communication and at all stages up to being verbal and articulate with language.

The role of the Speech and Language Therapist is to work with children and young people with a range of neurodevelopmental difficulties (including autism), parents/carers, teachers, health visitors and others to assess the child's developmental progress and how this impacts on everyday communication, play and engagement in a range of contexts (e.g. home, school and in the community or with friends). This assessment is then considered in planning to meet the child's needs through a range of supports and interventions at a universal, targeted and specialist level.

Speech and Language Therapists are core members of diagnostic assessment teams and also work collaboratively to enable the child or young person to be successful communicators and to support those around them to adapt their environment and communication styles to support communication, reduce anxiety and distress and build social relationships.

Requests for assistance around understanding and supporting communication or for diagnostic assessment can usually be made directly to the local SLT Department through local pathways and guidance.