BMBF-Project "schAUT"

Diagnosis of barriers for autistic pupils in inclusive schools
(Prof. Dr. Michel Knigge, Vera Moser & Stephanie Fuhrmann)

Diagnosing barriers for autistic pupils in inclusive schools

The basic core of the principle of inclusion is that a learning environment should be adapted to the needs of all students. In relation to current autism research, this means that the educational success and social participation of autistic students depends on the removal of relevant barriers.

Within the framework of the work of White Unicorn e.V., valid questionnaires have already been developed that record barriers for adult autistic persons and for which differences to non-autistic persons can be proven. It can be assumed that these barriers also exist in schools and make participation more difficult for autistic pupils. Often they only become visible after escalations. Diagnostics for inclusion must therefore deal with the detection of these barriers.

The schAUT project is developing a diagnostic tool that is suitable for deriving subjectively perceived barriers in the classroom. In this way, indications for the design of adapted learning environments that meet the needs of the respective class can be determined in a way that is suitable for everyday use.

Work steps: A barrier questionnaire is developed in several steps. The first phase involves qualitative and quantitative community-based surveys. This instrument will be validated with approx. 1000 primary and secondary school students in 3 federal states at two measurement points. Improvements will be incorporated between the first and second measurement points.

Information from three perspectives will be incorporated into the related handout on barrier reduction: Conclusions from the current research literature, suggestions from the survey of the autistic community as well as practicable suggestions and support needs that were collected in workshops with educators from the participating schools.

The barrier sheet and the handout will be further developed in a conference with a group of internationally renowned experts and tested in further training events for teachers.

Finally, the schAUT diagnostic tool is available as a free download to all Ministries of Education for use in inclusive schools. The results to date have been published online in an open excess format, which will also be done at the end of the project.

The schAUT project is conceived as an interdisciplinary and participatory, internationally networked research project based on many years of cooperation between the association White Unicorn e.V. and the Humboldt University (rehabilitation education and rehabilitation psychology) and extensive joint preliminary work.

Research objective and research question

The central research question is: How can barriers for autistic students be identified and reduced?

Derived project goals:

Principles: The work in schAUT is based on the concept of neurodiversity. Autistic people are recognised as a neuro-minority in a society that has been shaped by the neuro-majority. Accordingly, diagnostics in the sense of inclusion must take place as diagnostics to identify barriers. In principle, it should be independent of clinical categories. This is in line with the social model of disability referred to in the UNCRPD.

The work in schAUT is participatory: knowledge is generated together with autistic scientists as experts in their own field and the autistic community in order to define diagnostics and barriers. In this way, community and science are equally involved in planning, implementation and publication.

Research method

Mixed-methods design

Status and duration

Status: ongoing
Project duration: June 2021 - May 2024


Goethe University Frankfurt am Main
Humboldt University Berlin
White Unicorn, Association for the Development of an Autistic-Friendly Environment e.V. in Berlin

Team at White Unicorn e.V.

Stephanie Fuhrmann


White Unicorn e.V.



Dr. Mark Benecke

Research & Consulting

White Unicorn e.V.



Gerhards, L., Moser, V.; Fuhrmann, S., Schwager, S., Benecke, M., Kleres, J. & Knigge, M. (i.V.). Partizipative Forschung im Projekt schAUT – Grundlagen und Gelingensbedingungen für eine gleichberechtigte Zusammenarbeit im Kontext eines Verbundforschungsprojekts. In C. Lindmeier, S. Sallat, V. Oelze, W. Kulig & M. Grummt (Hrsg.), Partizipation – Wissen – Kommunikation. Bad Heilbrunn: Verlag Julius Klinkhardt.

Conference papers

Fuhrmann, S., Gerhards, L., Kleres, J., Knigge, M., Moser, V., Schwager, S. & Benecke, M. (11/2021). Diagnose von Barrieren für autistische Schüler:innen in inklusiven Schulen. Poster im Rahmen der Herbsttagung der Arbeitsgruppe Empirische Sonderpädagogische Forschung (AESF). 5.- 6. November 2021, Belval, Luxemburg.

Moser, V., Knigge, M., Schwager, S., Kleres, J., Gerhards, L., Fuhrmann, S. & Benecke, M. (02/2022). Diagnose von Barrieren für autistische Schüler:innen in inklusiven Schulen. Poster im Rahmen der 35. Jahrestagung der Inklusionsforscher:innen (IFO 2022). 23.-25. Februar 2022 an der Universität Innsbruck.

Gerhards, L., Moser, V., Fuhrmann, S., Kleres, J, Knigge, M., Schwager, S. & Benecke, M. (09/2022). Teilhabebarrieren autistischer Schüler:innen - Partizipatorisches Forschungsprojekt schAUT. Vortrag im Rahmen der 57. Jahrestagung der Sektion Sonderpädagogik der DGfE. 28.-30. September an der Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg.

Gerhards, L., Fuhrmann, S., Kleres, J, Knigge, M., Moser, V., Schwager, S. & Benecke, M. (08/2022). School and Autism - Development of a diagnostic tool to assess individual sensory and social barriers for autistic students. Vortrag im Rahmen der European Conference on educational Research (ECER). 23.-25. August 2022 an der Yerevan State University, Armenien.

Kleres, J., Gerhards, L., Knigge, M., Moser, V., Schwager, S., Fuhrmann, S. & Benecke, M. (02/2023). Autistische Perspektiven auf Barrieren in Schulen. Vortrag im Rahmen der 36. Jahrestagung der Inklusionsforscher:innen (IFO 2023). 8.-10. Februar 2023 an der Internationalen Hochschule für Heilpädagogik, Zürich, Schweiz.