Understanding autism

Autistic people have preferences about how autism is talked about. Some people prefer ‘person with autism’. Others prefer ‘autistic person’. We respect everyone's views. When communicating with an individual or family, it is important to respect their preferred language.

Autism is a lifelong condition that affects how a person learns and interacts with other people and their surroundings throughout their lives (from childhood to adulthood).

Every autistic child and young person has different strengths, interests and abilities. No two autistic children are the same. But there are some common characteristics of autism.

Autism and education rights

All children have the right to enrol in their designated neighbourhood mainstream government school. Autistic children have the same education rights as other students.

If needed, school staff must make reasonable adjustments to support autistic students’ participation.

Considering a child’s learning and behaviour

You play an important role in identifying if a student:

  • is having difficulties in the classroom
  • requires support for behaviour.

If you have concerns about a child’s development or behaviour you should talk to the child's family, who may wish to consider speaking to their child’s doctor.

How schools support autistic children

The best practice is a ‘whole school approach’ for autism. This means the school community should work together to support autistic children.

To achieve this, schools make sure:

  • they have an inclusive culture
  • staff have up-to-date knowledge about autism
  • teachers use student strengths and interests to plan the curriculum
  • everyone who works with a child communicates and collaborates with each other
  • they proactively prevent and address any instances of bullying
  • autistic children can take part in and contribute to their local community.

Student learning

No two children are the same. If needed, you must make reasonable adjustments to support students’ participation. For example, depending on a student’s needs, a teacher could:

Support is also available if students have learning difficulties.

Student support groups

A student support group can help make sure students gets the right support at school. It gives school staff, parents and specialists the opportunity to work together to make decisions about a student’s education.

A student support group is mandatory for students in the Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD), and is strongly recommended for all autistic students, irrespective of their PSD eligibility.

Student support services

Your school has access to student support services. Student support services have psychologists, social workers and speech pathologists who can work with school staff to help them meet a student’s individual needs.

Language and learning disabilities support

The Language and Learning Disabilities Support Program gives schools funding to help them teach autistic students. Support provided with this funding can include teaching staff, equipment and professional development.

Program for students with disabilities

The Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD) gives extra resources to schools to help them support eligible children with disabilities or high needs.

More information

  • Positive Partnerships - aims to improve educational outcomes for autistic students through professional development for educators and other school staff. Our regional and school-based staff work with Positive Partnerships to deliver professional development.
  • Amaze – For more than 50 years, Amaze has supported autistic people and their families in Victoria. Amaze Autism Advisors provide free, expert autism information and advice to parents and professionals from 8am to 7pm Monday to Friday across phone, email or webchat. Amaze has also worked with us and the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a resource to support carers of autistic children and young people to minimise the risk of wandering.
  • Yellow Ladybugs - a volunteer community group focused on providing support to autistic young girls and women with autism. Yellow Ladybugs has produced an evidence-based resource to provide guidance on meeting the educational needs of autistic girls.
  • I-CAN Network - provides mentoring, education and advocacy for autistic young people. They build networks across schools, universities, TAFEs, communities, businesses and governments and run professional development for health and education professionals and the wider community.