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(UK) Sussex: SPED--'The system is really messed up...the waiting lists are only getting longer'

Nov 21, 2022, Sussex World: Goring mum feels helpless in battle to get autistic son into specialist school after ten years of zero learning - 'We've been failed

SE England

Shelley Chamberlain’s 14-year-old son, whose name she asked to be withheld, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder aged eight, after he had ‘mild motor difficulties’.

The mum, from Goring, said she had been battling to get her son into a specialist school to no avail, and that her family had been ‘failed by the education system' in West Sussex.

“It was a late diagnosis because nobody was listening to me and waiting lists were a little lengthy,” she said. “I knew my child, my first born, was different from a very early age.

“My child also now has ADHD and a folder full of letters and documents of confirmation reports that say although he is intelligent, kind and brimming with potential, he needs specialist help and assistance at school and has done so since he started school.”

Shelley said she had ‘absolutely no record’ of her son ‘having learned anything since was five’ and feared he would miss his GCSE examinations.

“I’ve spent every day for the last few years answering phone calls from teachers because they don’t know what to do with him, answering emails from professionals. We’ve listened to a thousand promises of hope and help and not one of them has come to fruition. We've been failed by the education system,” she said.

Shelley said she feared for her son’s future, with the cost-of-living crisis and concerns over unemployment.

“What are this generation's children going to do, when they've got special needs?” she said.

“They can't get anywhere. It's an absolute disaster. It's appalling. The system is really messed up and the waiting lists are only getting longer.

“It's been a very lonely time and I don't want anyone else to feel that way. It has caused a lot of family heartache.”

A West Sussex County Council spokesperson said: “We received a request to assess this young person this year, which we started in the summer. We are waiting for the information we need to decide if an Education Health and Care Plan is the right outcome for this child, or if other support is more appropriate.

“We should have been able to provide the family with the outcome earlier this month and apologise for this delay. We aim to be in a position to allocate the child a school shortly, and are currently providing alternative learning in the meantime.”


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