As reported by the Guardian, the National Autistic Society says long waits for educational help is leaving families ‘on the edge of crisis’
One in four autistic children wait more than three years to receive the support they need at school, leaving families “exhausted and on the edge of crisis”, according to the National Autistic Society.
Seventy-four percent of parents who were polled by the charity said their child’s school did not fully meet their needs – double the dissatisfaction levels four years ago in the charity’s last education report. Parents also complained they faced lengthy battles trying to secure the right support for their child, with 57% reporting they had waited more than a year and 26% waiting more than three years.
The NAS school report, based on surveys of 4,000 parents, carers, autistic children and young people, also highlighted the impact of the pandemic on autistic children, with 44% of parents of the view their child has fallen behind with work and 59% concerned their child has become more socially isolated.
The charity says the education system is not working for autistic children in England and is calling on the government to take action in its special educational needs and disabilities (Send) review, which has been beset by delays.
According to official government data there are more than 160,000 autistic pupils in schools across England, of whom 70% are in mainstream schools, while the rest are either receiving specialist education, are home educated or are out of education altogether. One in five parents responding to the NAS survey said their child had been “informally” excluded at least once in the past two years.
Caroline Stevens, the NAS chief executive, said the system was broken and called on the government to act. “The education system simply isn’t working for autistic children and their families, and things have been made even harder by coronavirus.
“Families told us they had to spend months, even years, without the right support, often because there’s no school to meet their needs. And two in five of those who were refused an assessment of their child’s needs said they took legal action.
“We won’t accept a world where so many autistic children are falling behind and so many families are being left exhausted and on the edge of crisis. The government’s upcoming Send review is an opportunity to change things, to live up to the promise of the 2014 reforms which were never implemented properly.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said £74m was being invested in the first year of a cross-governmental national autism strategy, which was set up to improve the lives of autistic young people and their families and carers in England.
The DfE said the SEND review would be published “in due course”, adding that training was under way to improve teachers’ knowledge of autism. “We want every autistic young person to reach their potential and feel heard at every stage of their life,” the spokesperson said.