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(UK) London: 5yo autistic boy left with no school place next fall

Mar 22, 2024, My London: Mum of autistic Hounslow boy says he's 'in limbo' as 'inadequate council support has left him with no school'

Kerry Finlay is worried her autistic son will be without a school come September

A West London mum says she is concerned her five-year-old autistic child might not have a school to go to in September, claiming the support package outlined by the council does not go far enough to address his needs. Kerry Finlay, from Hounslow, has spent months trying to find son Lennon a school that meets his needs after his current one said it could no longer accommodate him.

 Kerry said her child, who has struggled with verbal communication and requires a speech therapist, has been let down by Hounslow Council which she claims has failed to find him a suitable school. As part of its agreed support, the council assigned his school £2,100 [$2,600] to cover the costs of speech therapy sessions vital to his development.

However, to her frustration, Kerry says that due to a bureaucratic error in how the therapist was paid that she was not made aware of until the council cancelled the therapist in December, Lennon has been without a therapist for over four months.

The pausing of payments has convinced Kerry that the council simply 'doesn't care' about her son. In emails shown to Local Democracy Reporting Services (LDRS), the council is shown apologising for how it has handled the situation, but Kerry worries that the continued lack of a therapist could see 'his speech get worse'.

The speech therapy was assigned as part of an Education, Health and Care Plan (ECHP) prepared by council officers, which the mum feels doesn't go far enough. While the plan acknowledges that Lennon has 'a range of difficulties, including reduced attention and listening skills, delayed expressive and receptive language skills and delayed social communication skills', it only designates a total number of Education Speech and Language Therapy hours per academic year of 28 hours - an amount which Kerry believes doesn't meet her son's needs.

This is reflected by the response of Lennon's current primary school. In a letter, the leadership makes clear that they are unable to provide the support he needs and are 'unable to admit' him for another year.

Kerry said she was made aware that this would be the case, she said: "I've got a meeting with the school about next year. I don't think they are going to keep him on.

"He's in Year 1 but he's been brought back to reception and he can't really do it again. So the head teacher has said they don't know if they can have him for the following year."

Lennon has been forced to repeat reception and has been suspended on two separate occasions for 'going for' other pupils, which Kerry says is a result of his difficulties communicating and something that could only be helped by specialist support. She believes only a Special Educational Needs (SEN) school can provide her son with what he needs. . . .

While the single mum desperately searches for the best ways to support her son she says she has faced some challenges with Hounslow Council. With his suspensions, uneven development, behavioural problems and the likelihood that his current school will not be able to accommodate him next year, Kerry believes her son's ECHP is inadequate.

Kerry says in her current situation she and her son are 'in limbo', unable to find a new school which could deal with Lennon's needs while his current one is unlikely to take him back for another year. The mum believes that if Hounslow Council had agreed to put Lennon in an SEN school in its last ECHP back in June 2023 she would not be in her current predicament, with her now having to fight tooth and nail to try to get the council's support to find him a place.

Appealing to Hounslow Council to find Lennon a place at an SEN school has been a struggle, Kerry tells LDRS. However, she explains that finding him a spot is crucial: "They have teachers that are trained to deal with his needs, there is nothing worse than sending him to school every day thinking 'oh my god am I going to get that phone call, what are they going to say'. . . .

She says she has had two rejections for schools in Hounslow, one because it said it was unable to meet the five-year-old's needs and the other which said it was full. At the heart of her frustration is the fear for her son's future. Kerry told the LDRS: "When they [children] get older they get more stuck in their ways so I think when they are younger it is easier to get that intense therapy than when they get older and the longer it gets left he's going to be [at junior school age] and that help could have been done earlier. He's already massively behind his peers. He needs that therapy." . . .



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