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(UK) Solihull: Councilor blamed moms with cell phones for all the autism

Sept 24, 2021, BBC News: Solihull councillor quits role over autism comments

Midlands A councillor has stepped down from a committee after coming under fire for comments suggesting parenting skills were partly to blame for autism cases. Angela Sandison told a Solihull Council children's services scrutiny committee meeting some mothers should be encouraged not to spend much time on their phones. A local autism support group said there had been an "outcry" over the "ill-educated comments". Ms Sandison has apologised. She said she never meant to blame parents. 'Over-diagnosed' The Conservative councillor made the original comments while highlighting high rates of autism in the area, which are almost double the regional and national average by the time children reached secondary school. She questioned whether cases were being "over-diagnosed" and whether so many children actually needed a place in a special school. "Can we put in some early intervention, like with parenting skills, so... we do not have so many cases," Ms Sandison asked council officers. "In a previous generation of children they'd never even heard of autism and now we've got so many." One small study, referenced by Ms Sandison, has suggested parental support could reduce by two-thirds the number of three-year-olds meeting the criteria for diagnosis…. The council said it had received at least 15 complaints in relation to the Council's Code of Conduct following the comments. In a statement, the North Solihull Additional Needs Parent Support Group said: "The public outcry from the SEND community has been deafening in response to the ill-educated comments…. "Saying that parents spending too much time on mobile phones and that this is a cause of autism is really offensive." she added. The National Autistic Society said the comments were "hurtful and wrong" and its Head of Policy, Public Affairs and Research Partnerships, Tim Nicholls, said: "We are particularly disappointed to hear them coming up in a council meeting that should be concentrating on supporting autistic children better. … During the meeting itself, other councillors also hit out at Ms Sandison's comments, with one saying "autism is not a failure of parenting", while the chair said the condition was "very real"…. "Autism is real and I in no way meant to blame parents. I unreservedly apologise. I am very sorry for the upset caused and I would like to offer my resignation from the scrutiny board."


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