"Breaking Barriers: The Rise of Home Education for Autistic Children"

"Breaking Barriers: The Rise in Home Education for Autistic Children"

Sasha Jackson
Authored by Sasha Jackson
Posted: Friday, April 12, 2024 - 15:22

Did you know that autistic pupils are facing barriers to their fundamental right to education? A leading charity has sounded the alarm, revealing a shocking 166% increase in the number of autistic children persistently absent from school over the past four years.


Let’s delve into the numbers. In England alone, over a quarter of autistic children – that's roughly 51,000 out of approximately 200,000 kids – are missing out on vital education, having missed 10% or more of the school term. Even more concerning is that out of nearly 20,000 autistic children persistently absent from state secondary schools, four out of five are grappling with mental health issues, as per government data scrutinised by the charity Ambitious about Autism.

Jolanta Lasota, the charity’s chief executive, minced no words, asserting that these figures expose a broken educational system in England. Autistic children aren’t opting out of school; they’re being pushed out due to unmet mental health needs, marking the grim onset of exclusion.

But wait, there’s more. The charity, armed with its research, the latest government figures, and academic studies, has uncovered additional troubling truths:

  • More than a third of autistic children have experienced periods of being out of education when they should have been in school, with some enduring years of absence.
  • Autistic pupils are over twice as likely to face school exclusions compared to their peers.
  • A staggering one in four autistic children wait for over three years to access the support they require at school. And shockingly, nearly 60% wait for more than a year.
  • In 74% of cases, parents reported that their child’s school placement failed to address their needs adequately. More than half of autistic pupils lack a quiet sanctuary at school or someone to turn to for support.
These findings paint a stark picture: autistic pupils are being let down by a system that should be nurturing their potential and ensuring their access to education. It’s time for a change to ensure that every child, regardless of neurodiversity, can thrive within our educational system.


Many parents of autistic and neurodiverse children turn to home education due to various challenges they encounter within the traditional schooling system. Here are some reasons why this trend is so prevalent:

  • Unmet needs in school: Parents often find that mainstream schools struggle to adequately support their autistic children's unique learning styles and needs. Despite legal requirements for providing support, many schools need more resources, expertise, or understanding to effectively cater to neurodiverse students.
  • Inflexible curriculum: The standardised curriculum in mainstream schools may not cater to the diverse learning styles and interests of autistic children, leading to frustration, disengagement, and a lack of academic progress. Home education allows parents to tailor educational materials and approaches to better suit their child's strengths, interests, and pace of learning.
  • Bullying and social challenges: Autistic children may face bullying, exclusion, and social isolation in school settings. This can have a detrimental impact on their self-esteem, mental health, and overall well-being, prompting parents to seek alternative educational options where their children feel safe and accepted. Facing such challenges, parents may opt for home education as a safer and more supportive environment for their children.
  • High levels of exclusion and absenteeism: As highlighted above and by recent research, autistic pupils are disproportionately affected by school exclusions and absenteeism. This exclusionary environment can exacerbate feelings of alienation and hinder educational attainment.
  • Long waiting times for support: Obtaining specialised support services within the school system can be lengthy and bureaucratic. Many parents find themselves waiting for years to access these services. This delay in intervention can significantly impede a child's development and academic progress; this is where home education becomes a more immediate solution.
  • Desire for personalised learning: Home education offers the flexibility to tailor learning experiences to the individual needs and interests of the child. Parents can implement sensory-friendly approaches, incorporate life skills training, and provide one-on-one support, fostering a more personalised and inclusive learning environment.
  • Empowerment and advocacy: Some parents choose to home-educate to reclaim control over their children's education and advocate for their rights. Through home education, parents can actively participate in their child's learning journey and ensure that their needs are prioritised.
  • Negative school experiences: Some autistic children have had negative experiences in school, such as sensory overload, difficulties with transitions, or conflicts with teachers or peers. These experiences can lead to anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, prompting parents to seek alternative educational options.


Some parents of special needs children sadly feel forced into home educating or are ‘off-rolled’ by their school; such are the failings of our educational system. Overall, the decision to home-educate often arises from a combination of factors, including dissatisfaction with mainstream education, the desire for a more inclusive and supportive learning environment, and the need to address the specific needs of their children holistically, thereby enabling them to thrive.
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