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The positive impact of wellbeing groups for Autistic secondary school students

Actions and outcomes

Three wellbeing groups have been piloted in three secondary schools. The pupils who attended were:

  • At risk of not attending school or currently not attending.
  • Pupils with anxiety that is impacting on their ability to cope in school.
  • Have autism and/or social communication difficulties.

The programme delivered twelve sessions which aimed to enhance self-esteem, teach some self-help anxiety reducing strategies and practice social skills.

The programme aims were:

  • Identify individual’s strengths, likes and dislikes – this will help to increase self-esteem. Pupils will be more likely to engage with enjoyable, productive activities. It will aid goal setting and motivation.
  • Improve ability to identify, discuss and explore emotions and feelings related to anxiety – this will help pupils to self-regulate and respond to situations more positively. Pupils will be more able to identify their feelings.
  • Relaxation techniques – pupils will have techniques to use to help them calm.
  • Social Skills Practice – this will help pupils become more confident in their social interactions and more able to make and maintain friendships and social relationships.
  • Develop ability to solve problems independently – this will help to increase self-esteem and self-efficacy. Pupils will feel more empowered to confront challenges and try out new experiences.

The Stirling Children’s Wellbeing Scale was used as a measure.


There was an improvement in the wellbeing scores of all participants in one Group, but unfortunately lockdown interrupted two other groups.

One Group consisted of all Autistic girls, two of which made a friendship due to being in the group. All girls reported that they enjoyed being in the group and a level of trust was created amongst the girls. It was a ‘safe space’, where the girls felt listened to and able to express themselves. Two thirds of the group expressed an interest in further work with the group leader in the future, such as a possible mindfulness session. Training for group leader is currently being explored.


Pupil A (boy, 15) – “I’ve really enjoyed the sessions. I try to relax more.”

Pupil B (girl, 15) – “I look forward to the sessions every week.”

School staff – “It has helped her. She’s come out of her shell more and will talk about what is going on with her.”

Lessons Learned

The mix of pupils needs to be right. In one group the pupils were very low ability. The work needed to be tailored more specifically for the individual needs of each pupil and quite a few sessions were needed at the start as ‘ice breakers’ before moving on.

With the all-girl group, the sessions were fairly organic at the beginning, going off the set plans. This allowed for them to express themselves more freely and get to know each other better.


Health Board:
Hwyel Dda University Health Board
Local Authority: