Case study JK (Assessing School Placement)

JK is a 7-year-old boy with a diagnosis of autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. He attends an autism specific class within a unit in a mainstream school setting. He has a keen interest in music and computer games and enjoys domestic tasks such as hoovering, cooking and cleaning.

JK demonstrates an interest in interacting with his peers, however, motor planning and social skill difficulties created barriers in this area.

A Speech and Language assessment identified JK as having severe receptive and expressive communication difficulties and without communication supports in place, JK often became frustrated attempting to communicate his needs with others. This frustration often led to classroom destruction, absconding from the classroom or physical outbursts directed towards others.


JK was referred to Middletown Centre for Autism due to concerns in accessing his school placement. JK was on a reduced school day due to high levels of challenging behaviour that were occurring within the school setting. Those working with JK highlighted difficulties in managing his behaviour during everyday activities at school, and were further concerned about the safety of JK, his peers and staff working with him. Following consultations with family members and professionals, the following areas were identified as priority:

  • Increased access to school placement
  • Increasing functional communication skills across home and school
  • Positive behaviour management training for family members and school staff
  • Differentiated curriculum to support learning style
  • Visual strategies and structure within the classroom
  • Initiating and engaging in play with peers


  • A Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) was introduced to support JK’s functional communication skills. School staff attended PECS training to support the implementation of the system across the home and school setting. JK was taught to request a break or appropriately refuse his participation in a task he found to be challenging.
  • Training was provided to the class teacher in curriculum differentiation. Tasks and activities were matched to ability level and learning style, and movement was incorporated to avoid length periods of time at the desk. Special interests were incorporated into the daily curriculum to attach meaning and increase participation. A range of daily chores that JK enjoyed were also added to the daily schedule.
  • Capacity Building training was provided to the school teachers and support staff in a range of topics aimed at increasing their understanding of autism. Specific emphasis was given to ‘Visual Strategies’ training and the ‘Promotion of Positive Behaviour’. Middletown Centre for Autism supported the implementation of visual strategies into the classroom and home setting, to ensure JK’s communication differences and learning style were being addressed. By doing so, challenging behaviour significantly reduced within the school setting. This training was mirrored in the home setting to ensure consistency of approach across both environments.
  • Partnerships between home and school were established to ensure clear communications and consistency existed for JK. A home/school communication journal was used daily, and JK was supported to communicate about events at school using photographs which were sent home on a weekly basis. Links were established with external agencies to ensure all stakeholders involved were up to date with JK’s programme at school. Respite services linked directly with the class teacher to ensure any changes in school collections or respite days were communicated in advance to JK.
  • Attention Autism groups were established in school to enhance positive interactions with Peers. In-school training was provided to a small number of school teachers, and the groups were rolled out across several class settings.

A full school day was established following the implementation of the above strategies.