Below is a short glossary of terms we use at Prior's Court around our work supporting autistic young people with complex needs.

There is additionally an explainer on our website here about why we use the term "autistic young people with complex needs" to describe our learners.


Autism is a neurodevelopmental difference. Autistic people think and process information differently.  The current diagnostic criteria for autism includes: 

  • Differences in social communication and social interaction across multiple environments and situations.  
  • Highly focused interests and a preference for routine and sameness.
  • Repetitive and self-stimulating (‘stimming’) behaviours 
  • Differences processing everyday sensory information 

This all results in a different way of seeing and experiencing the world. 

Learning disabilities and complex needs

Autistic people experience these in different ways. At Prior’s Court the autistic young people all have learning disabilities and many have additional diagnoses which makes their support needs complex. 

With the right support, young people at Prior’s Court can make significant progress, learn new skills and lead a meaningful life reaching their full potential.   

Prior Approach

Our specialist approach to supporting autistic young people with complex needs, which enables them to reach their full potential.

The Prior Approach is based on autism best practice and methodologies and is carefully adapted to suit the specialist needs of our young people and support their physical, intellectual and emotional wellbeing.  

Applied across all settings with consistency, our approach provides a toolkit of skills which enable autistic young people to make sense of the world around them and support them throughout their life.  

Prior's Court Learning Framework

The Learning Framework consists of 7 key Areas of Learning that we feel best supports the young people at Prior’s Court to gain skills and achieve the best quality of life for them as individuals.

Our underpinning values are for health, happiness and skills into work/work experiences.

The seven Areas of Learning look at developing independence and generalising skills in the areas of Communication, Positive Behaviour Support, Daily Living Skills, Healthiness, Keeping Me Safe and either Functional Academics or Vocational Learning.

Each pathway is bespoke to the individual through their targets and smaller ‘I can’ statements.

Learning is in context and across the extended day to ensure regular practice of skills. 

Prior Insight

Prior Insight is our big data platform which accumulates hundreds of pieces of data about young people at Prior’s Court - food and drink intake, bowel movements, skills progression, incidents and more. 

Harnessing the power of modern digital technology to store and interrogate these large amounts of data, the system provides insights into the complexities of autism, enabling a better understanding and mapping of autistic behaviours. Through a better understanding, we are able to predict behaviour and intervene where needed.  

But Prior Insight does so much more than this. It hosts our staff rotas, our policies and procedures, HR systems, internal communications, vehicle bookings, accident reporting, a Parent Portal for families to access data and so much more. It is at the centre of what we do.

Team Teach Prior’s Court uses Team Teach as a whole-setting approach. Team Teach promotes team building, personal safety, communication, and verbal and non-verbal de-escalation techniques. These techniques support the management of challenging behaviours, reducing risk and minimising the need for physical intervention. Where physical intervention is needed it is a planned and proportionate response to the risks encountered.   
TEACCH and Structured Teaching

At the heart of the Prior Approach is the TEACCH approach - world-renowned for its effectiveness in supporting autistic people. 

The TEACCH programme aims to enable people with autism to function as meaningfully and as independently as possible in the community.

TEACCH has developed an approach known as 'Structured teaching'.

The principles of Structured teaching are: 

  • Understanding the learning styles of autistic individuals and how to use strategies that support these.
  • Developing an individualised plan of learning built on assessment and understanding of skills and strengths.
  • Structuring the physical environment to make expectations clear.
  • Using schedules to visually show a young person where they are going throughout their day.
  • Using work/activity system to visually show a young person what to do, how much is expected,  when they will finish and what happens next
  • Using visual information to make activities understandable 
Positive Behaviour Support PBS (Positive Behaviour Support) aims for a consistent and predictable environment to support people to be happy, regulated, independent and learn new skills with access to meaningful activities and positive relationships to enable a good quality of life.   
Total Communication

Prior’s Court adopts the Total Communication approach to help young people form connections, ensure meaningful interactions and support exchanges of information.

Total Communication honours and accepts all forms of communication and we support a combination of methods so that communication can be individualised for each young person. 

Sensory integration

The autistic young people at Prior’s Court have differences in their understanding of everyday sensory information.

Any of the senses may be over or under-sensitive or both at different times. Any of the individual's eight senses could be affected and this impacts on their ability to engage with the world around them and cause sensory overload. 

We support sensory differences through a range of strategies including sensory integration therapy. 

Read more about our autism expertise