Can I Really Send my Autistic Son to a Mainstream School in an age of Austerity Cuts?

Principles, eh? Most of us have them. Some of us try to do our best to live by them. Then we have children and suddenly we’re blushing red-faced as we stand outside the headteacher’s office awaiting an unpleasant conversation.

I’ve been an advocate for inclusion ever since a close encounter with a cement truck (it knocked me off my bike and ran me over) came with the fringe benefit (I suppose) of providing me with a degree-level education on the cause of disability rights.

That cause is set back by a lack of inclusion and visibility; by the absence of disabled people in politics, in the media, in the wider workplace, and in education.

While serving as a link governor for special educational needs at my kids’ school, I sought to do my bit towards turning the tide.My commitment was informed by the idea that it is good for schools, for children and for society to have those with disabilities learning alongside their peers wherever that is possible, and that their needs should be met to allow that to happen.

But at the same time my son, who is on the autism spectrum, has been getting older.

It will soon be time for him to leave what is a relatively small school – one notable for trying to provide a nurturing environment for its students, and where all the teachers are mostly aware of his issues – for a much larger high school where that will not be the case.

The transition from primary to secondary education is a stressful enough process for any parent. When your child is a vulnerable one? Believe me, sleepless nights are just the start of it.

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