George was diagnosed with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder aged 3 and was placed in a day special school. George had many difficulties including severe sensory processing and integration difficulties, fine and gross motor difficulties, poor attention skills, social isolation, anxiety, immature play skills, frustration, poor independence and self help skills, poor eye contact, impulsive behaviour, speech, language and communication difficulties, and increasingly he was displaying severe challenging behaviour which included self stimulatory, challenging and highly unpredictable behaviour with no apparent trigger: for example throwing chairs, jars, and bowls at staff and pupils, even when supervised, thus placing both himself and others in danger. George’s behaviour was related to his frustration and lack of communication skills. George attacked his mother and 2 strangers in public which left her in no doubt that she could no longer manage these outbursts on her own. Staff at his junior school were supportive of the family and recognised that George’s family needed a high level of support at home in order to meet his needs and to keep him and other members of the family safe. Many of his behavioural difficulties related to food. He would take his clothes off three or four times a day and frequently bite other pupils and staff. He would also pull adults hair or clothing, bite his own hand and slap his own head and at 11 years of age he remained non verbal, socially withdrawn and lacking basic life skills being unable to dress himself and needing constant supervision due to a lack of a sense of danger eg turning taps on and leaving them running, and attempting to reach or climb up for items on chairs and worktops.
George also had a difficult relationship with food, sometimes eating so much that he would make himself sick or he could eat 15 or 20 apples a day. Often it seemed that George enjoyed the sensory feel of crunching an apple and didn’t actually swallow the fruit. He would become extremely agitated should any attempts be made to stop him chewing food. He would approach other customers in MacDonalds and attempt to take their food off them if he was getting impatient, waiting for his own meal after an order had been placed.
As George got older his parents had significant concerns about his inability to generalise skills and his challenging behaviour which they expressed at Annual Review meetings. Despite these parental concerns the LA issued an Amended Final Statement for George’s secondary school placement naming another day special school. Notwithstanding the extent of George’s difficulties, his Amended Final Statement did not provide any quantified provision at all, and no direct occupational therapy or speech and language therapy. George’s parents appealed against this Statement of Special Educational Needs in order to seek a school placement within a wholly specialist residential ASD school setting which offered an extended school year. The family appealed against Parts 2, 3 and 4 of George’s Amended Final Statement and sought a residential place for him at a specialist independent school for pupils with severe and complex needs arising from ASD. The family sought the placement on a 44 week basis per annum.
The LA continued to put forward a day special school with limited respite care for the family over a number of settings including a child centre, Sunday group, playscheme and shared care. George also had difficulties dealing with transitions between different settings, home, care and school.
George’s family had to obtain a number of independent expert reports which were filed with the Tribunal and served on the LA early in the process.
This case went to a final hearing and was successful in that the Tribunal ordered the LA to name the family’s preferred placement on a residential basis for 44 weeks per annum. Subsequently the placement was transferred to a 52 week placement under the terms of an updated Education Health and Care Plan being issued.
George now attends a specialist school in Berkshire catering for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders which offers a holistic and whole school approach with a high staff to pupil ratio and a waking day curriculum. He receives direct speech and language therapy and occupational therapy and is taught by teachers who are trained, qualified and experienced in dealing with children with severe Autistic Spectrum Disorders throughout the curriculum in small group settings. Staff in the care setting are also able to deal with issues concerning George’s behaviour should he awake during the night. He also has clear consistent routines to which he responds well. The school is able to provide a structured and calm environment to enable George to learn and offers consistency between teaching and care staff to ensure that skills learnt in one setting are transferred to another.
George's family hope that a waking day school curriculum will offer a range of choices and encourage him to do more meaningful activities to enable him to improve his independence skills and to have a consistent communication system.