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Writing, reports, casenotes, EHCPs

A hand holding a pen writing on paper

We've discussed ableism and the stigmatising language used when it comes to autism, autistic children and disability in general. Stigmatising, negative language appears in EHCPs, reports, assessment descriptors and in MDT conversations in the workplace. This section is all about adapting our language. It recognises that neurodivergence is an completely valid neurology and culture of people (The Double Empathy Problem).

When it comes to observations it's important to avoid judgmental language:

"has poor-eye contact, limited range of interests, inappropriate behaviour, plays inappropriately, exhibits rude behaviour, unusual responses to others, asks politely, has temper tantrums, acts sulky, unusual mannerisms, invades others' personal space, is manipulative, responds to teasing in an abrasive manner"




Person with autism






The following statements can be turned into and adapted into strengths, difficulties, goals / targets:





Autistic person





  • can say why a person might be feeling a particular emotion

  • infers why a person might have said something

  • has difficulty recognising other people's perceptions

  • gives other people opportunities to share their opinions during a discussion

  • after a disagreement with a friend, they can reflect on what their friend might be thinking

  • struggles to understand other people's physical boundaries

  • has built trusting relationships with staff and peers

  • can explain their perspective in a range of contexts and situations

  • can say why another student might feel upset or angry
  • understands autistic communication features e.g. knows what info-dumping is

  • shows an awareness of students' personal space / physical space e.g. asks if they can take something from their desk


  • checks their visual schedule to manage their routine

  • can communicate via a whiteboard / pen when they lose access to spoken language

  • can share their opinion on a range of topics

  • prefers to avoid eye-contact / struggles to hold someone's gaze

  • advocates for themselves when other students cross their boundaries e.g. says "stop"

  • is a powerful self-advocate

  • can communicate to staff verbally / nonverbally when they need a toilet break e.g. shows a symbol

  • can communicate a range of learning needs e.g. need cream coloured paper

  • asks for help in a variety of contexts

  • uses the 'help' card to communicate to staff when they need support

  • can advocate for themselves when they need a break

  • makes a choice between 2 options (objects, symbols, adult support)

  • identifies their own strengths and needs

  • manages their routine with increasing independence

  • asks for clarification when they do not understand a class instruction

  • requests a movement break when they are feeling dysregulated

  • can say no / refuse an item or activity

  • requests help through their preferred method of communication

  • has difficulty requesting an item / activity in class

  • contributes to deciding what their EHCP outcomes and goals are


  • can express their ideas during class discussions

  • uses compensatory strategies during a miscommunication e.g. circumlocution, gesture, pointing

  • understands and answers Blank level 1/2/3/4 questions

  • experiences frequent communication breakdowns

  • is unsure how to initiate interactions with other students 

  • has difficulty producing verbal reasoning

  • has difficulty predicting what might happen next

  • struggles to verbally answer multi-part questions

  • struggles to understand / answer "how" or "why" questions

  • struggles to re-tell an event in the correct order e.g. what they did at the weekend

  • understands and uses sarcasm in a range of contexts

  • can tell elaborate stories spoken and written

  • understands instructions containing 2 key words

  • uses circumlocution when they can't think of the right word

  • uses a range of gestures to support their communication

  • can re-tell a story and sequence events in the right order

  • understands "how" and "why" questions

  • uses subordination / coordination in conversation


  • recognises when they are becoming anxious (can describe what their body feels like)

  • can label emotions when presented with a visual e.g. Emotion Thermometer

  • can verbally express how they are feeling

  • knows a range of emotion words / vocabulary

  • struggles to identify / describe their emotions

  • has identified what their top 5 strategies are to self-regulate

  • is starting to use their self-regulation strategies with adult support

  • is highly empathic and notices when other students are upset

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