When your child with ADHD or ASD is excluded from school.
This is a subject which will be close to the hearts of many parents of ADHD and ASD students, what help can you expect if and when your child is excluded from school?
Statistics from the Department for Education in 2016 showed that children with SEND, young men particularly, account for over 50% of all fixed term and permanent exclusions from school in the UK.* This is despite government guidelines which advocate that schools should avoid permanent exclusion if a child has an EHCP (Education, Health and Care Plan, the successor of an educational ‘statement’). Once they have been off school premises for six consecutive days, the local authority has a responsibility to ensure that an alternate method of education is provided. This can take several forms, a special education unit, home tuition or a pupil referral unit.
School can be a hostile environment for many children, not just those with SEND (special educational needs or disabilities). Many parents take their spectrum children out of school and opt for educating them themselves because of the stress when their student needs are not recognised or recognised but not met.
Students become demoralised, depressed, frustrated and experience a general decrease in mental health. SEND children are often challenged in making or maintaining friendships as they may have elements of social anxiety, and neurotypical students can exploit these difficulties once they become aware of them.
As counsellors we find students presenting with panic and anxiety, being on the outskirts of friendship groups or completely excluded from them, complaining of physical ailments, general avoidance or behavioural issues. After terms of being told that they are stupid, not trying hard enough or lazy, when in fact they are trying their absolute best but just process information differently, it is hardly surprising that this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
What support is available?
So what can parents do when they find themselves either having to be at home to accompany a younger excluded child or having to ensure that their teenager stays inside during school hours or face a fine? This will mean that parents have to be off work to accompany them or be able to ensure that their teenager attends the special unit or remains inside during school hours in order to avoid a fine.
Parents can find support through IASS, the Information, Advice and Support Service which supports SEND students through transitions, primary to secondary, secondary to college or university, and on to employment, up to the age of 25. Your child does not need to have an EHCP, IASS can support you through the process of applying for one independently should your child’s school be reluctant to pursue it. Centrally funded but not controlled by the government, this organisation can tell you exactly what the letter of the law is regarding your circumstances, what help you can ask for and how to find it. They can meet individually with your young person and advise them about subject choices, careers and provisions in your local area. Schools perk up when IASS are mentioned.
Another support can be your local government Children’s Project who provide a range of services, parenting courses and key workers to help you at this difficult time. The young person needs their own support and sometimes cannot get this through family who are too invested in the outcome. A friendly, non-judgmental ear, somebody who does not come and go, can be invaluable. Whether this is a key worker, a youth worker or counsellor, having that unique relationship where they can voice their concerns without fear of it coming back to bite them is invaluable.
Parents need to consider their own self-care too during this intense time. Exercise can really reduce stress levels both for yourself and your child. An hour spent doing some aerobic activity can result in up to four hours of stress relief. Spend some time together to reconnect, tell your child – however hostile they seem – that you are there for them and love them no matter what.
Speak to an understanding friend of your own, get a neutral person (perhaps a school mentor) to speak with your child to help them, or find a counsellor with experience of SEND challenges. This is a problem which you can work through together.
Very best of luck!
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