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Young people with autism face unfair exclusions

EXCLUDED: Pupils with autism are being left out of lessons

THOUSANDS OF autistic children are being illegally excluded from schools and denied quality full-time education as a result, an autism charity has warned.

Ambitious about Autism claimed in a report that four in 10 children had been informally removed from lessons on a temporary basis rather than getting the support they need. The report’s findings were based on surveys with 500 families who have a child with autism and 1,000 members of school staff.

 According to the report, 39 per cent of children with autism had been subjected to informal exclusions – which is against the law – and 30 per cent of parents reported being asked by schools to keep their child at home.

RESEARCH

The charity said its research suggested many schools do not have the right knowledge, skills or resources to properly support children with autism.

Vanessa Bobb, founder of support group A2ndVoice and mother to an autistic child who has faced illegal exclusion in the past, said: “There’s a major problem in the educational system in mainstream schools. The schools don’t understand the severity of the condition. There’s no trained staff, and no experience in dealing with children on the spectrum.”

Typically, informal exclusion means parents are asked to collect their children from school at short notice, children are not allowed to take part in social activities and school trips, parents are asked not to bring their children into school at all or the child is placed on a part-time timetable.

Knox Daniel is the father of Joshua Beckford, 8, the youngest person to achieve a clean sweep of distinctions in a course for gifted children at Oxford University.

Despite his academic success, Joshua was repeatedly excluded for bad behaviour until he was diagnosed with having autistic traits.

Daniel told The Voice: “Instead of support, he got punished. Joshua went from enjoying school to preferring [to] learn at home. But I challenged and engaged with the school. It has gone from a negative environment to something more positive… The exclusions have stopped but things could have easily got worse.”

He added: “The stats are already against black boys, and now he's being discriminated against because of his disability. He has sensitivity to sounds. If a teacher shouts, he'll cover his ears, because it's painful but they think he's being rude. It's down to the staff. They don't understand and they don't listen."

Jolanta Lasota, chief executive of Ambitious about Autism, said: "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.”

She added: “Asking parents to collect their children early or putting them on part-time hours is against the law and fails to address the underlying need for schools to make reasonable adjustments to include children with autism.”

SUPPORT

From the survey, more than half of the parents involved said that they had kept their child out of school because they were concerned that the school was not able to provide the right support.

Approximately 700,000 people in the UK have autism with over 100,000 being from black and ethnic minority communities.

According the Ambitious about Autism, over 70,500 children have the condition, with more than 28,000 children subjected to illegal exclusions across England.

***What is autism?***

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates and relates to other people and how they make sense of the world around them.

Characteristics are generally divided into three main categories: difficulty with social communication, social interaction and social imagination. Key traits include inability to follow direction, difficulty reading facial expressions and body language, delayed speech, impatience and difficulty understanding jokes, figures of speech or sarcasm. It is a spectrum disorder, meaning it affects individuals differently. Asperger syndrome is a specific form of autism.

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