Image of attentive children in a classroom with an adult teacher in front of a whiteboard.

All children and young people deserve access to a high-quality education. Yet we know that autistic people often report negative experiences of school. CRAE research focuses on better understanding the educational experiences of autistic children, and identifying effective, evidence-based ways to best support them. Some examples of our educationally-focused research projects are listed below:

Pan London Autism Schools Network – Research Group: PLASN-R is a network of senior leaders from autism specialist schools in London and surrounding areas, alongside autism researchers from a range of London-based universities. Together, the goal is to identify priorities for research, share best practices in educational and research settings, and co-design/co-produce research. This initiative is particularly important since the children and young people in PLASN-R schools are often excluded from research opportunities due to the nature of their support needs.

CRAE lead: Laura Crane

Key publications:


Exploring educational experiences of autistic people with and without Pathological Demand Avoidance: Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) is not in the international diagnostic manuals (e.g., DSM or ICD), yet it is increasingly being described as a presentation of autism (even being diagnosed by some clinicians in the UK).

There is currently very little knowledge of the ways in which PDA affects people’s educational experiences or their ability to get support from educational professionals. Our research examines the educational experiences of autistic people with and without a diagnosis of PDA. The goal is to identify similarities and differences in the educational experiences of these groups and to explore the extent to which a diagnosis of PDA may (or may not) provide access to better and more appropriate support for autistic children who display extreme demand avoidance behaviours.

CRAE lead: Laura Crane with Clare Truman

Key publications:

  • Coming soon!

Autistic people’s experiences of post-16 education: We spoke to autistic young people, their parents and their teachers about the post-16 education landscape for autistic people following the introduction of the Children and Families Act in 2014. The Children and Families Act (2014) is a legal act designed to reform services for vulnerable children and those with additional needs, while also helping parents and families as a whole. As part of the act, a range of changes were made to education, services, and support. We wanted to see if the implementation of the Children and Families Act (2014) had changed the experiences of autistic young people. This research project was commissioned by the Department for Education and the Autism Education Trust.

CRAE Lead: Laura Crane

Key publications: