10th November, 2021 3:31 pm

A charity has found widespread failures across education to support autistic pupils and their families, who are facing long delays, inadequate help and stressful legal battles.

A survey of parents and carers by the National Autistic Society (NAS) found a quarter face a three year wait for help while 57 per cent do not receive assistance within a year.

When help is offered three quarters of parents said their children are forced to rely on inadequate school support packages.

The proportion of parents to say their school is not fully meeting their autistic child’s needs has almost doubled over the last four years.

The School Report 2021 also warns that parents are facing “expensive and stressful legal action” to find support for their children, around a refusal by councils to offer assessments for an education, health and care plan (EHCP), which is needed to unlock help.

Two fifths of parents who are refused such an assessment are forced to take their care to the SEND Tribunal. The council involved conceded before the hearing in most cases, according to the research.

In addition, seven in 10 autistic children said their school life would be better if more teachers understood autism.

The report is based on surveys with more than 4,000 parents, carers and autistic children during the summer this year.

“The waiting lists are so long that we’re worried that he’ll be too old by the time he’s at the top of the list,” said one parent about his 17-year-old autistic son who is at a special school.

The plight of autistic pupils has been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic, the report also found.

More than one in four parents said their autistic child has fallen behind in their work due to the health crisis and 59 per cent say their child feels more socially isolated than before.

The NAS is calling on ministers to ensure that the government’s upcoming SEND Review creates a school system that effectively supports autistic children.

“The education system simply isn’t working for autistic children and their families, and things have been made even harder by coronavirus,” said NAS chief executive Caroline Stevens.

“Families told us they had to spend months, even years, without the right support, often because there’s no school to meet their needs.

“And two in five of those who were refused an assessment of their child’s needs said they took legal action. I know from my experience with my own autistic son how gruelling this can be, especially on top of the often unbearable pressures families already face.

“We won’t accept a world where so many autistic children are falling behind and so many families are being left exhausted and on the edge of crisis.

“The government’s upcoming SEND review is an opportunity to change things, to live up to the promise of the 2014 reforms which were never implemented properly. The system is broken, the government must act.”

SOurce:, November 2021

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