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(UK) Leeds: 10-y-o autistic boy refused by 4 schools; no school for 2 yrs

Mar 8, 2022, Leeds Live: Leeds boy, 10, just wants to go to school but nowhere will accept him

NE England

A Leeds couple have been left feeling angry and hopeless as they claim their son is being failed by schools in Leeds. Joshua Lee, 10, has Autism and is also believed to have a condition called Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA), where following everyday expectations and demands causes extreme anxiety. He has been refused by four separate schools with provisions for pupils like him. He's now been out of school for two whole years, and parents Oliver, 44, and Rebecca, 43, have been left home-schooling him. Oliver, from Collingham, told LeedsLive: "He's been out of school for over two years now. We feel like we're completely being given the run around for any kind of support…. "He has self-harmed and basically tried to jump out of windows in the past. It makes us angry that there doesn't seem to be a school in Leeds that can't meet his needs. There's a hole in the system. "It's really hard for me and Rebecca too and we don't have a support network really. Rebecca spends all her time at home with Joshua and we don't really have a life. It's not easy for us to go out - as Joshua might react badly when looked after by anyone else. So there's a lot of strain on our relationship too but we're just trying to do what we can." Oliver said Joshua didn't show any signs of neurodiversity as a baby or a toddler - until around four years old when he was still struggling to learn to talk beyond babbling. He was at first diagnosed with Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia (DVD), where a child knows exactly what they want to say - but the brain has problems getting the tongue, mouth and jaw to move properly to form words…. Joshua seemed to be doing fine in nursery, though was held a year back to give his speech time to develop. Oliver said they really started to see how he was struggling when he moved into reception. "He would self harm, he would scratch his face coming to school, he would hide in the corner in the cloak room. He wouldn't want to do any work when he was being asked," said Oliver…. He hadn't received any diagnosis beyond the DVD at this point, and Oliver and Rebecca decided to enrol him in a local school and contact the local authority, Leeds City Council, to get him an educational health and care plan (EHC). EHCs set out the specific needs of children with special educational needs in order to provide the support those children need…. Oliver and Rebecca also have a younger son who has ADHD. Once Joshua moved into year three he started to struggle more with the big changes, especially as Oliver said he was being sat around the corner, isolated from the rest of the class. Oliver said: "He started to become really stressed and sometimes violent in a sense. He would throw chairs, he would throw books, he started self-harming again. We could barely get him to school. "Eventually a teacher tried to restrain him and he hit the teacher, and was excluded from the school. But it's not a conscious decision for someone like Joshua to lash out when he feels backed into a corner." Around this time Oliver was diagnosed with Autism with elements of demand avoidance - reflecting PDA. PDA is not a widely accepted diagnosis, and Oliver said lots of places in the UK don't recognise it. It has many similarities with Autism, and the National Autistic Society describes it as an extreme avoidance of everyday demands and expectations due to them causing extreme anxiety. The situation spiralled, and over two years ago back in 2019 Joshua ended up moving out of mainstream education to be home-schooled by his Mum as his parents believed it was the best at the time to stop him from being bullied and discriminated against. The local authority got involved and made recommendations for a Leeds school that is a provision for children with Autism, which he started at in September 2019. "On the third day in we dropped him off independently as the first two days one of us went in with him. And within an hour the school called us to come and pick him up because he'd tried to scale up their fence," said Oliver. "That creates a safeguarding issue and we were worried the school couldn't deal with him. His mental health was really struggling at this point, he was trying to jump out of windows and we were having to find and pay for all the support we could for him ourselves. "He was eight years old and was self-harming."… Since then, four schools with specialist provision for children with Autism have turned Joshua down. Oliver and Rebecca have found a school in North Yorkshire that has agreed to assess Joshua in two weeks they are hoping will find a place for Joshua. Oliver added: "We didn't realise how many families are going through this. There's so much anger and so many people in similar situations have been commenting and telling us their children have experienced similar - being left out of education for years or in some extreme cases committed suicide. "There are so any children with PDA who do not get the right support and often get horrible outlooks because of that. We want to share Joshua's and our story to make people more aware of that. It's a massive, wider problem where these children are wilfully neglected. "Local authorities and CAMHS are so out of date and overloaded and just don't kick into effect until kids turn up in hospital."

The isolation has left Joshua anxious, stressed and feeling separated from his peers


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