Mainstream schools 'treat autistic children like animals in zoos'|
OXFORD, UK: The mother of a five-year-old boy with special needs claims that mainstream schools treat children like her son as badly as "animals in zoos."
Jennifer King, a mum of four from Witney, spoke out after reading the May 15 edition of the Oxford Mail newspaper which highlighted the number of under-fives excluded from school for bad behaviour.
King's autistic son has repeatedly been excluded from a West Oxfordshire school, which she does not want to name. But she said it was not because he was a "yob", but that teachers were not adequately trained to cope with pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties.
King's son was diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder and dyspraxia last July, when he was four. It followed two-and-a-half years of problems.
She said: "Children with special needs are being forced into mainstream education and the teachers just can't cope. The children are put in a mainstream school because the government has closed so many of the special schools. But once at a mainstream school, we are told the school does not have the facilities to cope with children like this."
There were 21 suspensions of pupils aged five and under from Oxfordshire schools in the 2005/6 academic year, some of whom were excluded for kicking and biting teachers and classmates and throwing chairs.
King said her son - who she has asked us not to name - struggles to interact with other children as a result of his condition.
She said: "He has a diagnosed condition. It affects him emotionally and behaviourally. He cannot help it and does not misbehave on purpose. He is not a yob or a hooligan. To suggest a five-year-old is a yob or can intimidate is not right. But so many people just do not understand about autism. They look at your child as if they are an animal in a zoo. But all it needs is a bit of understanding."
She first encountered problems with her son when he was 18 months old and doctors began tests then.
She said: "We knew something was wrong as I had had three other children without any problems. I did lots of reading and research and he was finally diagnosed last summer. It caused problems at his pre-school but they supported him and were aware of his condition."
It has now been decided that, from June onwards, King's son will attend a special school in Oxford where she says she feels he will receive "the education he is entitled to."
Simon Adams, of Oxfordshire County Council's children and young people unit, said: "Most children with special educational needs can be catered for by the class teacher, while others with more severe difficulties are given support from one or more of a range of services. We believe Oxfordshire provides excellent support services for autism and other types of special needs.
"We believe that we involve parents fully and that they have every opportunity to both express their views and also to challenge us through an independent tribunal if they disagree with our decisions."
(Source: Oxford Mail, May 17, 2007)