I was wrongly labelled ‘the naughty child’ at primary school

I’M 16 years old and was born with Aspergers, a form of high functioning autism.

When I came to terms with my autism, I decided I wanted to help and inspire other people with the same disability who would be going through the same thing I did when I was younger.

I became a youth patron for Ambitious About Autism.

I work with the charity and represent them and influence what the charity does internally as well as externally.

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On February 11, I went to Portcullis House as a Youth Patron to help launch Ambitious About Autism’s new campaign, called “Ruled Out — Why are children with autism missing out on education?”

Many MPs attended and showed their support for this very serious problem that seems to be on the rise.

I invited our local MP, Rother Valley’s Kevin Barron. He attended and fully supports the Ruled Out campaign.

Myself and my dad spoke to him about my experiences and the campaign in depth.

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Ambitious About Autism have worked really hard and done extensive research — here are some facts we have found:

Four in ten children had been subject to informal — and therefore illegal — exclusions. One in ten parents whose children were illegally excluded said it happened daily.  

Nearly a third of parents reported being asked by schools to keep their child at home, which is itself a form of illegal exclusion.

A fifth of parents said their child with autism had been formally excluded from school.

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Over half of parents had kept their child out of school for fear that it was unable to provide appropriate support.

I know how hard it can be — when I was younger I got thrown about between schools and my primary school didn’t give me the support I needed.

One of my friends at Wales High School went to the same primary school and the same happened to him.

I was never content in school because I didn’t receive support.

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I wasn’t understood and people labelled me as the “naughty child” which was never the case.

I had huge anxieties caused by my low self-esteem and because of this I isolated myself and never spoke to anyone.

Luckily though, I’m now at a high school that understands and helps me when I go through tough times.

Just because I’m older doesn’t mean I no longer need support.

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People with autism need support for most of their life to help them excel and succeed.

Ambitious about Autism’s research shows many schools do not have the right knowledge, skills or resources to support children with autism, which often leads to exclusion procedures that break the law.

Typically this can mean requiring parents to collect their children from school at short notice, refusing to allow children to take part in social activities and school trips, asking parents not to bring their children into school, or placing a child on a part-time timetable.

Schools do have a legal right to formally exclude a child but this should only be used as a last resort, for example to ensure the safety of the child, staff or other pupils.  

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If a child is formally excluded it is vital that decisions are made with the family and the local authority focusing on the child’s best interests.

Jolanta Lasota, chief executive of Ambitious about Autism, said: “It is shocking so many children with autism are missing out on education.

“All schools are legally bound to provide quality full-time education to all pupils, including children with autism.

"Asking parents to collect their children early or putting them on part-time hours is against the law and fails to address the underlying need for schools to make reasonable adjustments to include children with autism.”

Ambitious about Autism’s Ruled Out campaign aims to ensure:

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Every school has access to a specialist autism teacher, to build capacity among school staff and to support children with autism to learn and achieve.

Every family of a child with autism knows their rights, and has the resources to help their child get the support they are entitled to at school.

Every local authority sets out in its “local offer” — the support available in its area to ensure children with autism have access to quality full-time education.

A full copy of the Ruled Out report, an executive summary, and details of how to support the campaign can be found at www.ambitiousaboutautism.org.uk/ruledout.


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