This week our Son's school is trying to force us into agreeing to a reduced timetable with the threat of exclusion if we don't agree. I am having to carefully craft a letter in response to this, however this is the letter I wish I could send them.
To our Son's School
We decided to place our Son in your private school as we wanted to do the best we could for our Son, and thought he would benefit from the smaller class sizes and the variety of activities that you are able to offer as a school.
Before he started school we didn't suspect that he had Autism or ADHD, or that he would struggle so much within the classroom. He had been to nursery and apart from a short period of time early last year, when there were a lot of major changes going on in his life, he had never given us any cause for concern at home or at nursery.
We thought we were doing what was best for our Son
When he started school and you reported that he was often causing trouble in class and with the other boys we struggled to understand why he was behaving this way, and were dismayed by number of incidents reported. He was not like this at home.
We asked if there could be an underling problem, you told us that many of the boys had trouble settling in and that we should wait and see. So we didn't do anything.
Initially we were dependent on you to understand what the issue might be
Before we knew it, you were calling in the Pupil Referral Unit who specialise in helping children with behavioural issues.
You never suggested the possibility of an underlying problem, and never called anyone in to get him assessed to try understand why he was behaving the way he was.
You never advised us to get our Son assessed. We had to figure this out for ourselves when we started to think that there might be more to it than just a boy struggling to settle in. We have now reached out to every professional we can think of to try find some answers, but this is going to take time.
A lack of advice meant a delay in getting a diagnosis and support from the right people
When we said that we had seen a psychiatrist who said that there were indications of Autism and ADHD and were trying to get a formal diagnosis, your first reaction was:
- Autism was too complex and difficult for your SENCO to get involved in
- There was no appetite for training your staff on how to deal with Autism and ADHD related behaviour
- There was nothing you could do to provide any support in the classroom
- There was nothing you could do to provide any supervision, or a quieter space, at lunchtimes when most of the behavioural incidents tended to occur
You only mentioned the possibility of an EHC plan to the necessary support when we indicated that your initial suggestion of our paying for one-to-one support was not an affordable option.
You never explained what the statutory assessment was or how to approach this in order to ensure we have the best chance of getting what is needed for our Son. Once again we had to find out the answers for ourselves, and have done everything possible in submitting our request for a needs assessment.
It would have been nice if you had tried to work with us to identify options about what could be done to prevent the behaviour from occurring. Together we might have been able to come up with a solution that worked for everyone.
Instead you took the defensive stance that we had three days to come up with a plan to collect our Son on days that you felt his behaviour was too challenging for you to manage. In addition you felt that the 2 hours it took us to commute back from London was too long - so we had to find someone close by who could do it in less time.
From the start you focused on Exclusion rather than trying to help us find support
We appreciate the fiddle toy, the wobble cushion, the catch me cards, the 5 times he has been rewarded with a story when he has got 5 cards, and the tent in the classroom to provide a space for reflection in the classroom.
For these we are extremely grateful, but unfortunately they don't go far enough to ensure our Son has access to all aspects of school life - both in class, and at lunch times.
You have said NO to all of the following which could help avoid many of the incidents occurring
- A visual timetable
- Providing opportunities, such as nurture groups, for positive socialisation
- Training your staff on autism and managing autism in the classroom
- Providing any support in the classroom
- Providing supervision or a quieter space at lunchtimes
- Escorting my Son rather than have him walk in line with the other boys when walking to lessons, such as music, which is known to be a trigger for my son
We have all seen the impact that this is having on our Son, and the people around him.
The number of incidents are increasing, he is now referring to himself as bad and naughty, refuses to do in work in class, and talks about his greatest difficulty at school as having to run faster than the other boys who run away from him when he wants to play.
Whilst we realise that these measures all take some extra effort upfront, it is likely that the effort you need to spend dealing with refusals to co-operate, incidents at lunchtime or in class and meltdowns in the classroom would decrease. This will also mean less stress for your staff and the other boys.
A lack of making reasonable adjustments has resulted in the escalating issues
You frequently tell us that you are "being nice" by not considering exclusion unlike other schools who would be considering exclusion due to the behaviour being experienced. You are not being nice. To me this is a veiled threat!
Your failure to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that my Son is able to access all aspects of school life is a likely breach of the Equality Act 2010, and the SEND Code of Practice.
You repeatedly comment on the impact on your staff and how upset they are getting. This could be reduced if you provided them with training on working with Autism in the classroom, and through the provision of some additional support for them from your existing resources, such as your SENCO team.
Your comment that "my Son is an intelligent boy who is able to more than capable of verbalising what has happened" when he has been sent to the office for time out after incidents on the playground shows how very little understanding you have of Autism or the challenges he faces.
--- National Autistic Society
My Son is not being naughty, he is struggling due to a disability and needs help
We are unable to support a move to a reduced timetable as we work full-time and can't afford additional child care to cover these hours over and above the school fees, weekly therapy sessions, private assessments and existing after school care costs that we are already paying for.
Your emails and letters trying to force us into considering a reduced timetable or face the possibility of exclusion are putting us under tremendous pressure as a family at a time when we should be focusing on identifying our Son's specific challenges and how to address them.
While you have a legal right to formally exclude a child, this should be done only as a last resort and when you have tried all possible reasonable adjustments
I realise you are not a mainstream school, but I want to highlight that in a mainstream school this is not legal.
"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."
--- Ambitious About Autism
Taking my Son out of school will not help to reduce the likely number of incidents which happen when he is at school as it does nothing to address the underlying reasons for these incidents. In fact, it just teaches my Son that if he behaves in a negative way he will get to go home. I know my Son, and it won't take him long to work this out.
Informal or Permanent Exclusion Does not help my Son in any way
We are asking you to think about how you can use the resources available to you, such as your SENCO team, to provide some additional support as an interim measure whilst we try to find our Son the help he needs in the long term.
We are asking you for the time to allow the assessments to be completed, and the support put in place, rather than force us into a rushed decision which could be detrimental to him in the long run.
We wish you could be supportive in the short term until we can get our Son the help he needs
My Son will not remain at your school as you are obviously not the best place for him, however I will not be rushed into making a rash decision to move him until I know where is the best place for him to be.
My Son is not going to be the last boy that you come across with these types of difficulties.
I wish that you and your staff were better prepared for dealing with this situation so that the possible need for assessments and additional support could be identified early before things reach a crisis point, and that you could help and support the child and their family through a very difficult time rather than adding to the pressure of the situation.
Have you had to deal with temporary or permanent exclusion? If so, were you able to get support in challenging the exclusion and getting the school to change their stance?