Aim of the project

To extend the ARC's work on autism and vulnerability project, researchers have obtained approval from the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) to use their National Pupil Database (NPD) and linked social care databases to examine vulnerability of children with recorded autism special educational needs (SEN) in comparison to children with other SEN and no SEN.

Alongside analysing data from the NPD, the ARC will carry out an additional survey study to look at transitions post 16 years old. They will run focus groups with young adults who have autism and other special education needs as well as with parents, social workers and teachers to find out about the impact of transitional outcomes. Based on information from the focus groups a survey will be conducted to find out more about the impact of transitions out of the education system for autistic individuals and other special education needs. They will aim to recruit 400 young adults with autism and other special education needs, as well as 400 parents, teachers and social workers to complete the survey.

Importance of research

In a self-report survey about vulnerability in autistic adults, the ARC found high rates of vulnerability in education and employment. For example 54% of autistic adults reported missing lessons due to stress and 14% reported having been formally excluded from education. In the section on employment, 47% reported having experiences being unemployed and seeking work for more than a year, and 55% reported not being able to find a job which matched their level of education, suggesting problems with transition in to work after education. The NPD data, in conjunction with PPI and surveys, will be used to explore factors contributing to autistic young people not being in education, employment or training post 16. 

The self-report vulnerability survey also found that autistic adults experienced higher rates of abuse in childhood. More autistic adults than typical adults reported physical abuse (27% vs. 16%), verbal abuse (63% vs. 33%) and emotional abuse (79% vs. 52%) by any adult. The NPD and linked social services data will be used explore whether autistic children are more likely to be registered with social services for different types of abuse than children with no SEN or other SENs.

The NPD data will give a unique opportunity to look at how some of the self-report data from the vulnerability project compares to population data collected by social services and education authorities.  It will also give the opportunity to compare autism to other SEN categories to see whether autistic children are uniquely vulnerable to certain outcomes (e.g. exclusion from school).

Researchers involved

  • Carrie Allison
  • Sarah Griffiths
  • Mariann Kovacs

Key findings

The project started in April 2018 and will run until September 2019

This project has been funded by ART and Mishcon de Reya LLP, with support from Gesher School