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Fears for autistic children’s return to school

 

Measures must be in place to cope with transition

A charity is calling on schools to provide all autistic children with a personalised transition plan to help with their return to school in August.

With lockdown extremely challenging for many families with autistic children, the huge change to routine and daily life together with strict restrictions has led to distress for many autistic children putting families under huge pressure, often with very limited support.

According to the Scottish Government there are 6,500 autistic children across Scotland. A third of autistic children also have a learning disability and, in many cases, also mental health difficulties.

The National Autistic Society Scotland (NAS) is calling on schools to make sure that every autistic child has a personalised transition plan to aid their return to school in August.

This might include visits prior to school starting, more autism awareness among staff, safe spaces, accessible information and videos showing any changes to layouts or school rules as well as a principle contact for parents.

Nick Ward, director of NAS said: “Many autistic children will have been out of school for over 4 months by the time the new term begins. Some have coped very well. Others however, have struggled under the strict restrictions and huge change to routine and we’ve heard from families under severe pressure with profound impacts on mental health and wellbeing.

We know that change can be incredibly challenging for autistic people. It is important that transition back into school is handled sensitively and in a personalised way. Transitions are already hard for autistic children, often because of a lack of support or understanding about autism, and that’s why we’re calling on schools to make sure that each and every autistic child has a personalised plan with input from parents to make the transition as smooth as possible.

“We don’t feel that this is too much to ask in a system which should be focused on getting it right for every child.”

Suzanne who lives in Dunfermline said the lockdown has been hugely challenging for her family. “I’ve had to stop my Open University course together with my volunteering in order to care for and educate by two autistic children,” she said.

She added: “Callum has quite significant needs and doesn’t understand the restrictions so it has been difficult to follow social distancing and I’m worried it will be very hard when he goes back to school as he has a compulsion to run up and touch or hug people.

“Emma is very different and is quite quiet. She has enjoyed lockdown to some extent, particularly with us being together as a family. She is however, very anxious about returning to school and has really struggled with sleep because she is so worried.

“Both my children have very different needs and so their transition back into school will need to be done with lots of understanding and support. The school have been quite helpful in my case and have offered to talk things through but I worry not everyone out there will get the same level of help.”

 

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