Apologies for the forthcoming rant but I am fuming!
14 yo son with high functioning autism in comp with special needs unit from which he attends mainstream lessons. Several problems with the school regarding lack of communication and what I believe discrimination e.g. changing his options due to student refusing to work with him 'cause his autistic'. Didn't know about the change until after it'd happened but head denies all knowledge. Has LSAs which he really dislikes and who seem to only make him feel monitored and are clueless to episodes of bullying he has experienced (seen the proof).
Last October he comes home with letter regarding school trip to France in March. Due to his interest in history and that his cousin was going he was eager to go. Considered carefully and decided he was very capable, would aid his enthusiasm in history and benefit him both socially and educationally. Paid deposit and confirmed he had a place. Spoke to history teacher at parents evening in November who confirmed he had place, was happy for him to go. Paid further two instalments (£285 so far and sorted him a passport).
In work today (on phones) noticed I had miscalls from school (always worries me as fear he is ill or been injured), my brother and mother all advising school trying to contact me re trip and its urgent.
Spoke to another teacher who advised he now can't go on the trip because they were 'concerned' he may need support and they can't provide it. 'What if they asked him to do something and he didn't immediately comply?' Only options were I also go and sit in a nearby hotel in France (if I accompanied my 14yo teenager on school trip with his mates he would disown me! Not to mention the hard time his mates would give him!). If he did go and there was any problem I would have to go to France to collect him. I stated this was extremely unfair as he'd been promised he could go, I'd paid out and there was no specific reason for the sudden change in decision other than he had aspergers and receives minimal support. Advised teacher to put it in writing and hung up.
Five minutes later I rung the school and stated I would be there in 15 minutes and demanded to see the head and to have a copy of the governers. Arrived to be refused list of governers and after waiting about 20 minutes saw the head. Stated that we were informed they were happy for him to go, he was looking forward to it and now this sudden refusal. No recent events in school. Advised that under the Equality Act he had the right to the same educational experiences as any other child and if they feel he'd need extra support (which in this scenario I don't agree he does) that its a reasonable adjustment that they were duty bound to provide. Head complained that if a member of staff from unit accompanied him he'd have less in unit that week. This school gets extra money for children with additional needs such as my son so sorry not my or my son's problem!
I advised the head that if my son had done something terrible in school and he said to both of us if that happens again you will not go on the trip he'd had my total support but he hasn't. My son has been promised something he is very much looking forward to only to have it snatched away and why? because he's labelled with autism.
Stated I would be back Friday to pick up his written response. His gonna seek 'further advice and guidance'. Advised him that if in his letter the answer continues to be no I was it stated very clearly why. Said nothing to my son yet as waiting to see what happens Friday but seriously how can this be? Plan to take to local authority and make this situation public but I find it heart-breaking and am so angry. We are in 2018, can they really discriminate so blatantly when they are suppose to be a school that includes a provision especially for children with additional needs?
This isn't my first battle with them and my desire to engage with them in next to nothing. I have considered other options but don't seem to be any. I'm scared for him to be in a school with no provision in-case he struggles and have no faith in the local schools here. Home education is not an option. My son's unhappy, I'm unhappy and there seems to be no way out. I'm counting the months till he leaves.
I guess my question is am I right to feel this is discrimination? What should I do? And any advice in general would be much appreciated.
Thank-you in advance.
I wonder if the school have gotten round to doing a risk analysis or some other bit of paperwork, only to have someone pipe up with a "what if...?" scenario regarding your lad?
There is an old saying that if it's a toss up between a ***-up and a conspiracy, it's probably the former...
Yes, it's unfair, but the school is probably trying to just protect themselves from "reasonably foreseeable events", without properly considering the impact that a volte face would have on your family?
I would probably be just as much on the warpath as you are, but then I have a habit of cutting off my nose to spite my face...
Since you fear a lack of provision, perhaps the "least bad" option is to grit your teeth and work with the school to reach a solution.
Their "what if he didn't immediately comply?" is laughable.
What if they asked another, undiagnosed pupil on the spectrum to comply? That's also reasonably foreseeable, so I guess they ought to cancel the whole trip, then...?
Somehow, they've gotten the idea that autism = might not immediately comply.
You might need to point out that if they've encountered one autistic person, they've encountered one autistic person.
Thank-you for your reply. It sounds very possible regarding the paperwork and second thoughts. I have noticed in the past some very stereotypical comments from one of the teachers regarding children on the autistic spectrum and yes one child with autism is one child with autism.
What you say makes a lot of sense, I will try hard to keep my cool. Problem is its been an uphill struggle and feels like engagement is a waste of time but will see how I feel in a couple of days.
I also very much agree that fear of failure to immediately comply is a crazy standard with teenagers in general. If that's the fear then indeed they should not do trips. Above everything I want my son to be safe and I truly believe he is very capable of doing this trip. He just wants to enjoy what everyone else does. I have nieces and nephews, talk to many parents in work all with neuro-typical children none of which are perfectly compliant 100% of the time. My son has his moments but is reasonably compliant and shows real maturity when out and about. I agree they may have played the what if game with their stereotypical views, shame they haven't considered what if a lad that is desperate to feel the same as his peers has a fantastic time with his mates and comes home with a positive experience he can finally link to school.
Thanks again for your feedback, much appreciated.
The only difficulties I had on my school history trip was eating too much of a particular cake and feeling like a might be sick for a while, and being taught by some French teenagers what turned out not at all to be polite greetings in Belgium!!!!
I’m sure if you go on the schools website it should list the Goveners as it will be in one of their policies. Also go through their own SEN policy I’m sure you’ll find they have breeched their own procedure.
I would also put everything they have changed without permission, in a letter of complaint to them in writing. How this is impacting your son. This backs up your complaint. You will have to follow their complaint procedure. OFSTED told us they have a right to reply and if it’s not dealt with correctly then they can investigate. Contact OFSTED about raising a complaint and raise your concerns. I would say failing that I would also contact your local MP they aren’t allowed to treat your son this way. It is discrimination but every phone call everything said write it all down as evidence and it will back up what you say.
Good luck and hopefully you’ll get the changes your son needs, not their needs.
Would the reason your son is getting assistance at school be more to do with the theoretical aspects of the curriculum; rather than so much his practical or environmental wherewithal?
I mean for instance that if you focus purely on the problems he does and could have, you might be able to focus the school staff on the reality of his needs ~ rather than have them involve their bureaucratic nightmares, or any misnomers about people with Asperger's Syndrome being guaranteed trouble, and all that.
For alot of teachers, doing a holiday excursion is a major risk for their career, if things go wrong, so they can get mighty paranoid about it all. I recall my history teacher (with long experience and very much respected in and out of school) telling one of the three newly qualified support teachers (who came on the history trip with us) not to worry about trouble and keep their mind on the job of having a good time (with a beaming big smile on his face). My history teacher loved teaching about the futility and the reality of the wars and did so not to let that be forgotten.
By the way, the fact that the school are withdrawing their offer for the trip at this late stage is staggeringly out of order. I can well understand why you are furious, and I definitely recommend involving the board of governors, along with your MP also. The school should have told you all that they are now telling you at the very beginning of this ~ but discrimination does not involve befitting conduct obviously it seems.
I really really hope all turns out well here for you and abroad for your son.
I agree with busyladybug about making sure everything is documented. At the end of every meeting/phone call I'd write down your interpretation of what has happened, then email it to the relevant person and ask them to comment if they feel your notes are inaccurate.
If the school are breaking the Equality Act and it sounds like they are, you have a write to complain.
this has happened to me and the only thing i got was an iep annd they said it wont be instated until now that was in my old school
You may want to contact our Education Rights Service who provides information, support and advice on educational provision and entitlements. Please see the following link for further information: http://www.autism.org.uk/services/helplines/education-rights.aspx
have you contacted the education authorities??
Thank-you all for your time and reply, they are much appreciated.
The school point blank refuse to give a list of the governers and don't display them on their website. All I can do is write to the 'Chair of Governers' and hand letter in to school.
After speaking to the head Wednesday, I picked up the letter he promised today. Basically its still a no. In the phone call Wednesday the teacher stated because his in the provision and has support. They have now cited two main reasons; 1. behaviour and 2. he receives specialised provision and there is no specialised provision for the trip.
1. Behaviour. They have cited his single incident of self-harm 5months prior to invitation for the trip. The self-harm incident that happened at home due to a particular student bullying him for being on the spectrum. The bullying was mainly in the form of text messages which left no doubt he was targeted for being on the spectrum. At the time I wrote a comprehensive letter stating this and a few reasonable adjustments that were required for him to feel calmer at school (leave lessons 5mins early to avoid crush in the corridors and coming across this student). I also took the opportunity that consistency is required in respect he was allowed a fidget spinner in some lessons and not others. He has not self-harmed since, I and the experts don't feel he is any risk of this behaviour now.
Inappropriate comments. Yes he may have done this on occasion which I wish he wouldn't and he has been told and explained to. However is this not part of the social difficulties of his condition plus he has on occasion been provoked. A girl took his picture on her phone put it on the internet and used software to put silly makeup on it to humiliate him. He in response made a comment about her weight. I don't condone any comments but this girl caused him so much anxiety are we not human and have the right to defend ourselves sometimes? Again this was prior to the invitation for the trip.
There is one incident I am aware of where a group of students were taunting him and he got wound up and ended up breaking a mug. This may have been shortly after invitation (before or after it was around that time Oct/Nov). But they never said anything in regard to the trip. Shortly after this there was one day he didn't turn up for school and text me to say he'd returned home because he was having a panic attack. I arrived minutes after the teacher at my home where he explained anxiety got the better of him. Again nothing was said in regards to the trip. They are now saying he refused to let them in full stop. I was minutes behind them and they were standing in my house when I arrived so clearly he did let them in!
I asked the head Wednesday why no-one had said to me his done this or that and if he does that again he won't be able to go on the trip. Instead they phone me out of the blue stating he can't go. The letter basically stigmatising him over the self harm incident I thought we had all put in the past, said because of my letter requesting he leaves lessons 5 minutes early means he can't handle any crowd and my request for consistency over the fidget spinner means he requires rigid structure at all times. I wish they'd take a moment to actually see my son. Oh and because he'd suffered bullying that he was vulnerable to it again on the trip. I must of lost my mind because I thought if a teacher witnessed bullying they'd do something about it but instead the victim is suppose to stay locked up in the home so the bully can still enjoy being out and about silly me!!
2. No specialised provision for the trip.
The sad thing here is stereotypically individuals on the spectrum tend to like familiarity and in many ways my son does. But having taken him abroad before and spending time with people his less familiar with really brings out the mature young man is he. I know he would do great on this trip. He would listen, and take instructions seriously. He has proved himself on many occasions but they can only take what they see in school which has been a nightmare for him. If they would feel better having extra support for him then fine whatever makes them happy but I know its not necessary and they are duty bound under the Equality act to provide it. This is the part I particularly believe to be discriminatory.
They include a risk assessments which includes things like crossing the road. He walks to and fro school on his own everyday for the last 3 years!
I have contacted the director of education at the local authority who states she's already spoke to the head but after I spoke to her said she needs to speak to him again and will call me back Monday. I also now know the official complaints procedure which starts with a reply back to the letter from the head. I will fight over this as I strongly feel its wrong but doesn't change things for my son.
I've had to tell my son tonight who has tried hard to take it well but is very disappointed and upset. His more despondent with the school than ever and I can't say I blame him. This is the final straw. I have no faith or confidence in the school. Having the provision I thought they would have the knowledge and expertise to really support my son but all they've done is alienate him and make him feel rubbish about himself. I've requested information on the options for him away from this school which I expect to be told on Monday. I have no idea what I can do in this respect as there seems to be no viable options at the moment but I live in hope.
Thank-you for the link to education rights, I shall give them a call to discuss. I just wish there was some clarity. It seems the school are happy to say he needs support and take extra money for him yet expect perfection from him. Surely we all have the right to feel upset if someone is taunting us and if they are to provide 'support' make it something that actually helps him instead it just seems to be there to make a teenage boy feel different from everyone else and like he's less than because discriminatory comments are not challenged.
Thanks for listening to this struggling mum.