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(UK) "Referrals for autism increased from 93,000 to 125,000 between October 2021 July 2022"

Mar 5, 2023, (UK) inews: Autistic children like my son need specialist schools where the teachers understand them ‘

Years of watching her son Eddie, 10, struggling to fit in at a mainstream primary have shown Georgina Fuller that the promised expansion of specialist schools can’t come soon enough Any parent of a SEND child (special educational needs or disability) knows that one of the biggest challenges is trying to navigate our faceless, convoluted education system just to get a basic level of support. So, as I battle to get my son Eddie, 10, a place in an oversubscribed specialist school, the news that 33 specialist schools will be built over the next few years is very welcome.

Announcing the long-awaited Department for Education (DfE) improvement plan, Claire Coutinho, the minister for children and families, said families who had not been able to get the right support for their children would get “redress”, and the plan would improve standards around the country. “I want to give parents confidence in the system. I think it is, for lots of parents I talk to, a great joy but also can be a huge challenge to have children with special educational needs, just to try and get them the right support,” she told The Times.

Our son, Eddie, was officially diagnosed with autism in 2019 when he was seven but we were advised to put him on the waiting list for the hugely overstretched Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) when he was four. The number of

according to NHS figures. Yet, some children are waiting up to two years for an assessment, a Parliamentary review by Hansard, showed in December last year.

I can’t speculate as to why so many more children are being diagnosed, but until I had Eddie I would have said I was in favour of inclusion of SEND children in mainstream schools. They will one day need to live and work in our fractured society and other children need to learn how to accept them, I thought.

Yet seeing how much Eddie has struggled with almost every aspect of life at his small village primary school near our home on the edge of the Cotswolds, from trying to access learning in a class of 30 children to navigating a packed playground, alongside being called “brain damaged” on more than one occasion by one child, I’ve changed my stance on that.

As he has got older, Eddie has also become painfully aware that he is not like his peers.

Although we try to present the fact that he is “differently wired” as a positive thing, the message he is getting from the outside world is that there is something wrong with him. “Why can’t I go to a school where people understand me and are like me?” he says. He has become increasingly negative about himself – saying things like “I’m an autistic idiot”, that repeat something that has been said to him at school.

At the crux of his problems is the fact he cannot often manage or control his emotions. His language can be, er, colourful and despite the fact he hates loud noise, he often speaks very loudly, without a filter (“Grandad, did you know you’ve exceeded your average life expectancy? You probably won’t live much longer though.”) He is only really interested in conversing on one of his favourite subjects, known as “special interests” in the autistic community. Eddie’s include Minecraft, Lego and Star Wars. He doesn’t pick up on social cues or nuances or understand playground politics….


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