The Hidden Curriculum

The hidden curriculum is defined as ‘the unwritten rules or guidelines in relation to attitudes, beliefs, terminology, behaviour and social interaction/ situations which are often not directly taught but are considered to be known and universally understood’. (Smith-Myles, B, Trautma, ML and Schelvan, RL 2013).

When children and young people are given opportunities to work with others across all subject areas, including interaction through play they have the chance to develop vocational skills, interpersonal skills, problem – solving skills and organisational skills which are often problematic for those with autism.

Executive functioning skills which again can cause challenges for children and young people with autism are addressed by getting practice packing the correct books into their school bag (a colour coding system can help with this, meeting homework deadlines (a homework diary is necessary to ensure all homework’s are recorded and using it as a checklist) and following a timetable are all useful life skills to develop.

Life skills can also be acquired outside the classroom for example;

  • In the dining hall at break and lunch where the child/ young person will be required to queue, order their food and pay for it
  • In the playground where social interaction and turn taking is required.
  • Using school toilets (social narratives are available to help with this)
  • Negotiating the corridors.
  • During PE and games lessons when interaction with others is required especially during team sports. Teaching also needs to take place around correct responses to winning and losing.
  • Lunch time and after school clubs where children and young people have the opportunity to interact with those who have similar interests e.g. Lego, board games, art, drama, music, gardening.
  • School and residential trips when the child/ young person should be responsible for their belongings and be able to care for themselves.
  • Travelling to and from school which encourages independence through time keeping, getting to the correct bus stop and perhaps showing the bus driver their bus pass. If the child or young person gets a taxi to school they will have the opportunity to converse with the taxi driver.

Points to remember

  • These skills need to be explicitly taught to a child or young person with autism in addition to the requirements of the curriculum subjects.