Autism service’s ‘black hole’ for kids

PUBLISHED: 14:45 29 July 2015 | UPDATED: 14:45 29 July 2015

Kelly Poole, whose son Josh has autism, pictured with mum Paula.

Kelly Poole, whose son Josh has autism, pictured with mum Paula.

Archant

AN 11-YEAR-OLD is left without a school after falling into a ‘black hole’ of services for young people in North Somerset with autism.

The family of Joshua Poole have been fighting for a medical diagnosis for the youngster, who they believe has autism, for six years.

But they have been left searching for answers while he does likewise for a school, with the lack of assistance for children in his position blamed for the problem.

Joshua’s schooling first suffered problems and he was left with anxiety issues following bullying in his first two primary schools, before he was allowed into a unit for vulnerable children.

His mother, Kelly, says he was then assessed for 30 minutes by an educational psychologist, who suggested he re-enter a mainstream school, but the problems soon returned.

Kelly told the Mercury: “We put him into a private school because it was very small, but weren’t even told the authority should subsidise it.

“When it then came to looking for a secondary school, we had the rug pulled from under us at the last minute at a school we had settled on, despite meeting the headteacher and being shown around.

“We have since tried to get him into Acorns [North Somerset’s bespoke education programme], and were first told he had a space, then told he had not. It’s been mixed messages.

“A professional told us recently about the ‘black hole’ in North Somerset for my grandson and children like him; he has a statement of special needs but only has an annual review with his special educational needs co-ordinator. Surely it should be on a regular basis.

“There is a dedicated college for vulnerable 16 to 25-year-olds which is brilliant, but they expect young kids to spend an hour travelling further afield to Bristol and South Gloucestershire, which costs the council thousands anyway.”

A North Somerset spokesman told the Mercury they had been ‘working hard’ to identify the correct placement for Joshua, and said services for young people with autism were ‘under review’.

They said: “We know the family feels frustrated about seeking a diagnosis for Joshua.

“What we do is based on national best practice guidelines and we do not accept the assertion that the family was told that Joshua was fine for mainstream schooling after a short meeting with an educational psychologist.

“The issue of educational provision in North Somerset for younger children with autism is already under review. A number of steps have been taken over recent years to address the needs of these children and further developments are being considered carefully.”

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