A day visit outside of school can be a great way of enriching the curriculum for all pupils. With some extra consideration, there’s no reason why these shouldn’t include children and young people on the autism spectrum.

Here we talk about ideas for school trips, looking particularly at the theatre and museum. We also look at how you can make trips inclusive and why it’s important that you do.

Ideas for school trips

When planning a school trip, you may find it useful to read our information on days out for families and autism friendly award holders.

Theatre

If you decide to visit the theatre, then our guide to making theatres more autism-friendly can help you and the theatre of your choice. Some theatres offer relaxed performances, you can search for these on our autism services directory

Staff at these theatres may have had autism awareness training. You can check this when booking the trip.

Museum

Hands-on learning is a common feature of the modern museum, with visitors being encouraged to touch, smell and listen as well as look and occasionally taste.

Many autistic pupils will enjoy and benefit from this ‘active learning’ approach. Others may prefer static displays where they can examine objects carefully. Some may benefit from a clear map showing how to make their way through the museum, from one object or section to another.

Here are some things they may struggle with:

  • the use of holograms to demonstrate a historical storyline
  • staff dressed up in costume rather than uniforms
  • the acting out of historical events. 

Read more about going to a museum.

Making school trips inclusive

You can make school trips more inclusive to autistic pupils by planning properly, taking their needs into consideration. Arrange to speak to the pupil’s parents/carers. They will be aware of possible anxieties and strategies that can help.

Booking a venue or activity

Whilst thinking about how appropriate an activity or venue would be for a school trip that includes an autistic pupil you could: 

  • contact the venue to explain the needs of autistic pupils in your party and ask how they can help
  • arrange a pre-visit so you are able to plan, think of the pupils' needs, any trigger areas and how you would deal with a meltdown
  • ask if there is a quieter time of the week when you can visit
  • check if they have an up-to-date visual story of the venue or activity on their website
  • think about anything that may affect a pupil's sensory needs
  • ask if they have a quiet area for autistic pupils to take a break if necessary
  • plan necessary support for autistic pupils eg a teaching or learning support assistant
  • think about how you can adapt the learning outcomes of the trip to better suit the autistic pupils involved. 

Preparing the pupil

A school trip will be a change to the normal school day. As with any change, it’s important that autistic pupils are prepared for this.

If using a visual support or social story, think carefully about how you can explain that:

  • there may be certain rules about accessing the venue, activity or touching items on display eg in a museum
  • there may be sudden noises or changes in lighting
  • other visitors will be present, making the environment very busy and distracting at times.

Make sure that you clearly explain to autistic pupils what they should do if they get lost, and check they have understood.

It may be helpful to show the pupil a photograph of what a member of staff at the venue or activity will be dressed in so they know who to talk to if they are separated from their group.

Including autistic pupils in school trips can be enjoyable for them, school staff and their peers. In some circumstances, failing to do so will be classed as disability discrimination.

Read more about disability discrimination in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Further help from our charity

Unstructured times
Teaching autism awareness
Understanding anxiety at school
Helping pupils with a demand avoidant profile at school
MyWorld free teacher resources
Network Autism
Autism resource pack for school staff

Last reviewed: 30 May 2017.