George was diagnosed with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder aged three. He 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, and speech, language and communication difficulties. Increasingly, he was displaying behaviour others found severely challenging, including self-stimulatory and highly unpredictable behaviour with no apparent trigger. He would throw chairs, jars, and bowls at staff and pupils, even when supervised, placing both himself and others in danger.
Multiple difficulties left his mum struggling to cope
George’s behaviour was related to his frustration and lack of communication skills. He attacked his mother and two strangers in public, which left her in no doubt that she could no longer manage on her own. Staff at his junior school were supportive of the family, recognising they needed a high level of support at home to meet his needs and to keep him and other members of the family safe.
George would take his clothes off three or four times a day, frequently bite other pupils and staff and pull adults’ hair or clothing. At 11 years of age, he would self-harm, was non-verbal and socially withdrawn. George lacked basic skills such as dressing himself and needed constant supervision due to no sense of danger. He would leave taps running and climb up on chairs and worktops.
He also had a difficult relationship with food, sometimes eating so much that he would make himself sick such as by eating 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, and had been known to attempt to take other customers’ food in MacDonalds if he was getting impatient while waiting for his own meal.
Let down by the local authority
As George got older, his parents had significant concerns, which they expressed at annual review meetings. The LA ignored their concerns and named another day special school for George’s secondary placement. Despite the extent of George’s difficulties, his provision did not specify any quantified provision at all and no direct occupational therapy or speech and language therapy. His parents appealed against to the SEND Tribunal to seek a placement at a wholly specialist residential ASD school, Prior’s Court, that offered an extended school year. Priors Court School is 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.
Even though George had difficulties dealing with transitions between home, care and school settings, the LA continued to put forward a day special school with limited respite care for the family. They included a child centre, Sunday group, playscheme and shared care.
Education Lawyers help George get the school he needs to thrive
With help from our specialist solicitors, George’s family obtained a number of independent expert reports which were filed with the Tribunal and served on the LA early in the appeal process. This case went to a final hearing and was successful. The Tribunal ordered the LA to name the family’s preferred placement on a residential basis for 44 weeks per annum.
George now attends Prior’s Court School and receives 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 awaken 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. It offers very high levels of consistency and approach 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 develop a range of choices and encourage him to do more meaningful activities to enable him to improve his independent skills and to have a consistent communication system workable for everyone.
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