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***(UK) N.I.: AUTISM has "REALLY EXPLODED IN SCHOOLS; Kids need support: parents

July 8, 2019, BBC: Autism: Parents calls for more support in Northern Ireland schools https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-48887853 Paul McDonald's autistic son, Jim, has been suspended from his mainstream primary school for 30 days in the past three months. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Paul estimates that Jim, aged eight, has been suspended for 135 days of his first four years at school. He is among a group of parents set to meet the Department of Education (DE) to highlight the similar problems their autistic children are facing. The proportion of children with autism in Northern Irish schools has almost trebled in a decade, according to the Department of Health. And some parents, like Paul, say that means they have to battle to get appropriate support in school for their children. "Jim's very curious about the world, he loves knowing how things work and likes to hear other people's thoughts on things," he said. "His autism is autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) with pathological demand avoidance (PDA)."… According to documents seen by BBC News NI, Jim has been suspended for school for 30 days since 28 March, often for five days at a time. Paul admits Jim presents challenges and would sometimes lash out at his teachers, but said it was due to his rising anxiety. "He would become quite distressed within the classroom environment and, as a result, he would throw something, say certain things and then it moved on to lashing out," he said. … Paul is now one of a group of more than 100 parents who are in contact as their autistic children have had similar experiences in school. Tanya George's son 11-year-old son, Niall, has also missed substantial amounts of education in primary school. … The Education Authority now spends £270m a year on supporting children with special educational needs - including autism. That is around one-eighth of the entire yearly education budget. DE's permanent secretary Derek Baker has previously said that he is worried about the rising cost and the support offered to children with special educational needs. And according to Liam Mackle from the Children's Law Centre in Belfast an increasing number of parents are challenging the level of support their children are receiving. "There are pockets where schools don't yet understand the complexity of autism - each child with autism is completely different from the next child with autism," he said. "It's about identifying what triggers are, speaking to the experts at the EA in terms of their autism intervention services and putting proper school-based strategies in place to avoid the need for things like suspensions and detentions which aren't addressing the problem." "Special educational needs and provision for children particularly with autism has really in the last five years, in terms of our advice service, really exploded. "Five years ago we were dealing with just under 400 cases in terms of special educational needs - including autism - and that's now jumped to 1600." Mr Mackle's experience is borne out by figures from the Department of Justice, which shows that the number of appeals to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST) has more than doubled in recent years. …