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Satellite classes are a promising model for inclusion, according to new report

31 January 2017

School boys stood at the top of a school staircase

New research from the Centre for Research in Autism and Education (CRAE) highlights the advantages of combining specialist and mainstream provision for autistic children.

The report looks at satellite classes, a model of supported inclusion for autistic pupils transferring from special to mainstream schools. Focusing on the Tower Hamlets satellite programme, it found that children and young people, as well as their parents and teachers, were unanimously positive about their experience of this version of the satellite model.

The children and young people described a multitude of benefits, including larger outdoor spaces, the continuity of staff and peers, the 'calmer' atmosphere, more stimulating work, fewer incidents of challenging behaviour by peers and the presence of more social opportunities. One commented that "it's more grown up", although some reported feeling like they didn't quite belong to either school: "You're kind of floating in between."

Parents celebrated the inclusion of their child in the mainstream environment, with one saying: "knowing that he's there, generally for us as a family, just made us happy."

The teachers interviewed were equally positive, stressing better behavioural regulation by children and better classroom focus, resulting in better educational opportunities.

Several studies of inclusion for autistic children and young people have explicitly called for novel models of supported inclusion that offer effective teaching and support. The results of this study suggest that this model is particularly promising, with convincing advantages for young people with additional intellectual and communication difficulties, and for their families, guaranteeing their right to a supportive and successful educational experience.

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