Mum believes autistic son is being ‘punished’ by council decision

PUBLISHED: 12:30 06 July 2012

Ethan Townsend and  mum Keren.

Ethan Townsend and mum Keren.

Archant

A WESTON mother believes her autistic son is being ‘punished’ after North Somerset Council refused to fund a £100,000-a-year independent school placement which medical professionals say he desperately needs.

Keren Townsend, aged 39, said her 11-year-old son Ethan, who has Asperger’s syndrome, has been withdrawn from school lessons, and is being taught alone in a room with no interaction with other students.

The mother-of-four said although Ethan’s mainstream school – Broadoak Mathematics and Computing College – has tried to support him as much as possible, the environment has become too socially complex for him to cope with.

Keren, of George Street, said: “It’s awful that I have to force him to go in the morning. He cannot stay at home but he’s not gaining anything from going to school at the moment.

“He hates it, he does not get to speak to anyone. It’s like he’s being punished but he has not done anything wrong.”

After extensive work and investigating all other state and special schools in the area, mental health care professionals have told Keren and her husband David that the only option for Ethan - to get the educational support he needs for his condition - is to attend North Hill House, in Frome.

Keren said: “When he attended a trial at the school in Easter he said it was the first time he had spoken to another child in more than a month.

“The school has offered him a place and all of his teachers and other professionals involved in his care agree it is the best placement for him. However, the local authority has refused the placement as ‘an inefficient use of funds’.

“Ethan is being punished just for being autistic. He is not allowed to attend any school clubs or any lessons.

“If he remains in mainstream schooling, his mental health and autistic behaviour will continue to deteriorate; leading to depression, school refusal and an uneducated adult requiring support for the rest of his life.

“The local authority is taking a very blinkered view of ‘efficient use’ of its funds.”

Keren has now appealed against the decision and is willing to take the matter to a tribunal.

She said: “I’m 100 per cent sure we are going to win. All the professionals agree there is no other suitable place for him.

“But I’m concerned that in the time it takes to get there we may end up in a situation where we are just at the point of no return, in terms of Ethan’s mental health.

“We want him to be able to live a productive life, but if this goes on for any longer I’m concerned whether this will actually happen.”

A council spokesman said: “We do not comment on individual cases. Our Special Educational Needs team does work closely with children and families to make sure that individual needs are met.”

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