Mum says autistic child ‘scared of school’ as exclusion rates for children with special needs soar
A Birmingham mum has said her autistic son is scared of school after a series of exclusions she considers ‘unfair’. Emma Taylor Turner, of quintonsaid she was forced to withdraw her child from school twice after he was “unfairly” punished by staff who she said “did not understand his condition”.
New research has found that students with autism are twice as likely to be expelled from school than those who do not have special needs. According to reportthis is due to the inability of staff to make reasonable adjustments for students, inadequate systems and policies, and budget cuts.
Emma is currently looking for a new school for her 11-year-old son, who she says was ‘beaten’ for having autism at his school in Oldbury. She said there was a ‘blame culture’ attached to pupils with autism and insufficient training given to staff on how to support them through school.
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Emma’s child was first excluded from school aged just five after she said she accidentally hit a teacher during a collapse in the school canteen.
“I remember we were called to school for a meeting after the ban and he was upset and crying because he didn’t really understand what he had done wrong. He wanted to sit on my husband’s lap but they refused – he was only five years old.
“We had suggested things the school could do to better meet his needs, but he just wasn’t the type of kid they wanted there. He was punished for these collapses, but the staff could have done so much more to prevent them.
“We need to change the culture that says children with autism are the problem.”
Search by University of Birmingham Center for Autism Education and Research (ACER) found that at least 25% of parents of children with autism reported unofficial or illegal exclusions of their children. Professor Karen Guldberg, Director of ACER, said: “The impact of exclusions on students with autism and their families is profound and can last a lifetime – juggling financial pressure, time off and the mental health of the family.
“We spoke to many people who often feel very isolated, unable to interact with friends and abandoned by the education system.”
After being transferred to another primary school with better Layout SEND, Emma said her child’s level of education had improved dramatically – he even gave a presentation to his class about autism. But now, in 7th grade, she said she still had trouble finding a school that could meet his complex educational needs.
“The staff just don’t have the knowledge to deal with children with autism,” she said. “It’s not the fault of the teachers – there is not enough training. But the blame is put on the autistic child, they are unfairly punished, they experience school trauma and then start misbehaving.
“Socially he’s really unhappy – he’s running to and from school because he says he’s scared. He needs advance notice of any changes to his routine as they can cause massive anxiety.
“One day he walked into school and was told he had been moved from set to set. There was no discussion to help him prepare for this transition – even though we had specifically asked the school to notify us of any material changes.
“Being moved down a plateau without warning created massive anxiety, he was crying, his self-esteem plummeted. He’s a very bright boy – he’s of an adult reading age – but academically he’s failing.”
The University of Birmingham report says that over the past five years every region of England has seen an increase in the number of school exclusions for pupils with autism of between 45% and 100%.
The findings of this investigation were presented to MP Huw Merriman, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Autism, who said: “This is a deeply concerning report, which strongly echoes the All-Party Parliamentary Group’s research on autism with the National Autistic Society.
“Exclusions can have a devastating and lifelong impact on children with autism and their futures and should never be an absolute last resort. We must do all we can to stop this negative trend, in particular by improving support for children and young people with autism and ensuring that all school staff have a good understanding of autism.”
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