Having autism myself, which was undiagnosed at the time of my school years, puts me in a greater position to understand my 15 year old son Sam who was also diagnosed with Autism two years ago.
This is the shortened version of the torture we went through during this time as a family.
Only because I have the knowledge of being a school refuser myself, was I able to understand why Sam was refusing to go to school.
Sam is highly intelligent. He received the one of highest Sats results in the country at the age of 10, and loved the attention that this intelligence brought him.
Unfortunately with Sams high intelligence also comes high anxiety.
Anxiety, if not spotted early and dealt with effectively, leads straight to school refusal in sam’s case and many other children just like him on the spectrum.
So how have schools changed to include children who are on the spectrum, or meet the needs of a highly anxious child with ASD ?
Some mainstream schools now have what is known as a hub for AEN students. Those with additional educational needs.
These usually comprise of children with all different varieties of needs.
Sams learning difficulty is not because he finds the work difficult, it is because of the environment in which he is expected to do it in.
Although these ‘hubs’ now exist in some schools, children are still expected to just ‘fit in’ with mainstream life.
Having autism for Sam means that he can’t fit in. The energy Sam needs to try and fit into the school ‘box’ exhausts him, and he can only manage it for so long until cracks begin to appear, and school refusal begins again.
Sam has been refusing school for around a month now. After government cuts forced him into sharing school transport, meant changing his driver with whom he had built a rapport with over the previous year, who he had gained a lot of trust in, and who had shared his triumphs in getting in to school the previous term.
An accident involving the new taxi driver who left the children to fend for themselves after the accident, and failed to inform anybody about it, all left Sam with whiplash, and a huge rise in his anxiety levels, which has in turn spiralled into school refusal once again.
Schools are still as ill equipped in dealing with Autism today, as they were 40 years ago.
There have been no changes in the way that people with Autism are still expected to somehow ‘fit In’ with an outdated education system.
People with Autism now have a name for their differences, and are not labelled as ‘maladjusted’ as I was back in the eighties. Much has been learned about Autism over the last few years, but nothing has been changed fundamentally to the mainstream education system It is still as rigid as it always was. Fit in or else.
Sam seems to be paving the way for himself. He tailor made his own curriculum, and up until a few months ago was doing an amazing job of keeping it all together.
Unfortunately juggling too many balls in a mainstream secondary school setting has been too much for him to cope with.
The education system in the UK needs a complete overhaul.
We are creating anxious and depressed young adults who will be our future generation.
School anxiety has become a huge problem in the uk, with thousands upon thousands of children, too ill to go to school because of it.
Instead of treating our children with anti- anxiety medication, the government need take a look at the real problem, instead of just treating the side effects.
The way things are going we are heading into a generation of un-educated, anxious and isolated individuals, who will have problems well into their adult lives because of it.
If like me you are fighting to get your child an education suitable for their needs, don’t stop. Don’t give up ,we have to pave the way for future generations of children on the spectrum. Autism isn’t going away, its here to stay.
We all deserve a better future going forward.