Autistic children are more likely to be excluded from school than non autistic children. A loophole in the equality act meant schools were excluding children if they had ‘a tendency to physical abuse’ even if that behaviour is because of a lack of appropriate support. Thanks to a recent ruling a child cannot now be excluded for behaviour ‘linked to their autism’ if the right support hasn’t been put in place.
This is fantastic news as it sends a strong message that we should be supporting children not blaming them.
However, I have comments:
Violence is not linked to autism.
Violence is more likely when somebody is distressed, scared, trying to escape an intolerable situation, in meltdown or sensory overload. Non-autistic people may also be violent in that situation.
We see this with autistic children more often as we insist on putting them in unsuitable school environments! It is vital that this is understood. Blaming autism rather than the environment lets a lot of people off the hook. Blaming autism means the behaviour cannot be changed as the person will never stop being autistic. Autism is NOT the reason – find the real reason for the violence and fix that.
Understanding and attitude are as important as a legal obligation
Most parents do not want their children in a school that wants to exclude them. We need major changes to attitudes and autism understanding in mainstream schools. This ruling sends a message which I welcome but a legal obligation to include is not enough. Children need to feel wanted.
This ruling is a good step forward for autistic children but it is clear from the articles and the response on twitter that there is still much work to be done to ensure autistic children are safe and happy in education.