On Tuesday Feb 11 the UK charity Ambitious About Autism launched their national campaign entitled Ruled Out which asks the question:
'Why are children with autism missing out on education?'
The campaign highlights the issues surrounding education and students who have Autistic Spectrum Disorders. (ASD)
The charity carried out a nationwide survey which asked for the opinions of 500 parents and over 1000 schools. They have recently published their findings and most disturbing of all was that 4 out of 10 children had been formally and temporarily excluded from school, this is illegal.
The report highlights a lack of training and support for autistic children in schools and that many children had been accessing school for only a few hours a day, had been asked to leave school early and had been exuded from school trips.
Some of the key findings from research carried out include:
'20% of children with autism have been formally excluded in the past 12 months
4 in 10 children with autism have been excluded illegally during their time at school
Over half of parents of children with autism say they have kept their child out of school for fear that the school is unable to provide appropriate support.'
Now as the mother of a child on the autistic spectrum these findings really frighten me although I have to add that I do not find them surprising at all.
There is a lack of training for teachers with regards to ASD and many schools do not have the appropriate resources, skills and staff to care for these children.
The Chief Executive of Ambitious about Autism, Jolanta Lasota recently said in a BBC news article:
"It is shocking so many children with autism are missing out on education. All schools are legally bound to provide quality full-time education to all pupils, including children with autism."
At the moment Tom attends a specialist ASD school to meet his needs but who knows what the future will bring? He may be able in years to come to once again access mainstream schooling and this is when I feel the real worry begins.
At present he is in an environment with teachers and staff who understand his needs and have all the relevant tools to meet those needs. The environment is also structured and adapted for children who are autistic. This is not the case in many mainstream schools, especially when it comes down to challenging behaviour and associated sensory needs.
Things have to change. Autism now accounts for one child in every 88; these children cannot be forgotten or be made to fit into an antiquated system. The entire education system needs to change to meet these growing needs.
This is why I support the 'Ruled Out' campaign, for my little boy and other children out there on the spectrum.
Ambitious about Autism are asking parents, teachers, schools and policy makers to support their campaign aims which are:
'Every family of a child with autism knows their rights, and has the resources to help their child get the support they are entitled to at school
Every school has access to an autism specialist teacher, to build capacity among schools staff and to support children with autism to learn and achieve
Every local authority sets out in its local offer the support available in its area to ensure children with autism have access to quality full-time education.'
Ambitious About Autism has also created a guide for parents which covers topics such as school exclusions, disability discrimination, additional support and Statements of Educational Needs. You can read the full Ruled Out report here