Autism awareness blog hop – Toby’s tale

Am delighted to take part in the annual blog hop to raise awareness of autism.

Today I’m sharing a true story about a boy called Toby (which is clearly not his real name). Toby is in his first year at school, and had a great time at Christmas playing one of the animals in the stable in the Nativity play. His parents had a good time, too, because when Toby was at pre-school he wasn’t allowed to take part in the Christmas production – in the pre-school’s eyes it would have been too much of a challenge. Toby has autism.

I can’t decide whether I’m sad or angry about the pre-school story. Of course, Toby needed help from an adult to be able to be part of the Nativity play in school, like he needs some extra help in class to be able to access all the curriculum, and that “all” must include things which aren’t English and Maths, or else where is the richness of his education or the education of children like him? Because Toby isn’t the only child I’ve heard about who’s been denied the chance to do something because he’s not quite like the other children.

Schools in England are supposed to have a Local Offer for children with Special Educational Needs (SEND) and a special needs policy. They will contain things like:

·         Children with SEND will have access to the appropriate resources needed to help them make progress.

·         The school curriculum is reviewed to ensure that it promotes the inclusion of all pupils. The school will seek advice about individual children, with external agencies when appropriate.

Trouble is that the policy doesn’t always match the practice, and the reality of school life isn’t as open and welcoming as it should be, nor are staff so willing to make the reasonable adjustments they should. Other parents can get tetchy that children with autism or other needs are receiving what they perceive as favourable treatment. Budgets are tight, so unless pupils have been given dedicated funding the extra support may drain other provision.

I may be being controversial, but I’d say that the impact of budgets isn’t as important as the impact of what lies between people’s ears. Many adjustments cost very little if anything at all – they’re about attitudes and whether your school staff have a “that child can’t do that” or a “how can we enable the child to do that” outlook.


12 thoughts on “Autism awareness blog hop – Toby’s tale”

  1. Thank you for participating in RJ’s Autism Awareness Blog Hop.
    I recognize Toby’s situation. It is the same where I live (the Netherlands). There are schools for children with special needs, but the government is trying to get children into ‘normal’ schools at much as possible. As this might be good for some children, it is not good for all. When they can go to a normal school the help they get is sometimes not enough, because of the reasons you state.
    It is a very sad. Therefore it is so important to join in autism awareness campaigns.

  2. One of the biggest problems is the insistence that inclusivity is always a ‘good thing’. A lot of autistic children are completely unable to cope with being in a class of 30 kids – so they are excluded from the classroom with a TA – and the entire concept simply falls apart. We have found other parents quite understanding and supportive. So are the mainstream staff, but they don’t have the time, the training or the resources to help. The provision of a quiet ‘calm room’ is expensive and is sometimes the only answer. Even with extra funding, leaving the child with a TA in a separate room is not a long term answer and yet sometimes that, part time schooling and complete exclusion are the only options on offer.

    1. I think the inclusivity for all agenda misses the point that children are individual and with individual needs and what’s right for one isn’t right for all. Having a child in a separate room, part time, would suggest the school can’t meet that pupil’s needs and it’s time to move them elsewhere, although parents can find that hard to swallow.

  3. It should be every childs right to have a good education especially a child with Autism and now we’ve just heard the government are cutting funding again. I think it’s so unfair to cut money from schools all children will suffer the consquences of this action. (Sorry I’ll get off my soap box now) With less teachers and TA’s all schools will struggle.

  4. What is sad also is that children are being denied an activity which might be the thing which opens them up, helping them deal with the rest of their schooling.

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