How would you feel if your child was excluded from school? Most parents would feel devastated. Unfortunately, it is an experience that many parents of autistic children go through and one that I am bitterly familiar with.
My son has been excluded from school twice. My feelings on these occasions have always been complete devastation mixed with defeat, depression and failure. These are feelings that parents of autistic children face frequently. I do not know if schools recognise the impact this sanction has on families who face challenges on a regular basis. Challenges that many parents don’t have to face.
I am not sure what schools are hoping to achieve when they use exclusion as a disciplinary measure for children with ASD. My son was only 6 at the time and had no idea as to why he was excluded. It made no difference to him or his behaviour. He actually had an “awesome” day off school as he spent it with his favourite Aunty. The first time it occurred was particularly bad timing as my husband and I were attending the Early Bird training course for the first time (http://www.autism.org.uk/earlybird). This is a fantastic resource for those who care for an autistic child. It is the opportunity to be taught strategies in an encouraging and welcoming environment. Such programmes are run in conjunction with local authorities and the NAS.
Exclusion puts a high degree of pressure on parents. It also has a harmful impact on the relationship that you have with school. As a mum of a child with special needs I have a far more “involved” relationship with school than other parents and using exclusion as a sanction damages that important relationship.
Schools are in difficult positions as they have more than one child to worry about. But, exclusions for kids with ASD does not work. So come on schools, work more with those parents of children on the spectrum. We really are “not bad parents”. We are normal people trying to struggle through a minefield of challenges that occur each and every day. So stand back, stand in our shoes and consider the impact your decision has.