Adopted Chelmsford boy with autism being let down by county council, says mum

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The mother of a severely autistic 10-year-old boy say he is being abandoned by being left to continue at a mainstream school – despite him saying he wants to die.

The mother, who adopted the boy aged four, said that despite suffering severe trauma in his early childhood, including being given back by the first family who adopted him after a week because ‘the authorities got it wrong’ and being diagnosed with autism, ADHD, dyslexia and dyscalculia, Essex County Council (ECC) has refused to offer a care plan that would allow her to access special education.

The mum, who is from Chelmsford and also has a five-year-old son, said school is incredibly tough for him and this has got progressively worse as he has matured.

He now recognises he is not capable of doing what his peers can do – he is over two years behind academically – and this is affecting his mental health.

She said: “When he was younger he didn’t notice so much what the other children were capable of doing.

“But now he is in year five and they can write as well as adults. His writing is like my five-year-old’s.”

She said that at the end of last year, before the pandemic broke out, he was suffering so badly at school that he was frequently vomiting and then he started saying he wanted to die as he just couldn’t cope with the anxiety that school caused him.

He subsequently started vocalising his suicidal thoughts to his teacher, who expressed concerns to his mother.

The mum said: “He’s ten years old and he is saying he wants to die because he just can’t cope at school and we have had experts, we have evidence of that in the report.

“I feel the council are not reading these applications. If he is getting adequate help he would not be saying he wants to kill himself.

“It’s one of those cases when something awful will happen and they will say perhaps we should have intervened.

“I don’t feel like they are treating it seriously. They are treating us like we are stupid, sending us responses like ‘let’s have a way ahead meeting’.

“I have had those and they’re pointless.”

The mum has applied to ECC three times for an education, health and care plan (EHCP) and each time it has been declined.

She said the last application contained evidence of her son’s suicidal tendencies, along with evidence and recommendations from medical professionals and experts that state her son cannot continue at school without an EHCP in place.

Her last submission went to the council on January 20 and after chasing numerous times, she heard a few weeks ago that it had been declined for the third time.

On challenging the decision, she received a reply on Monday (June 1), saying that after consideration by the council’s inclusion and psychology lead and the special educational needs and disabilities operations lead it was decided that her son’s educational needs can be “appropriately met at the SEN support level, within a mainstream school”.

She added: “He is not going to be able to cope at senior schools. He is going to need full time help to get him through the education he needs.”

The mum, who is in the process of taking ECC to a tribunal, added that the council needs to take responsibility for a child she says has been let down time and time again.

She added: “He was let down a few times.

“I just think it’s happening now and if anyone deserves a break it’s him. None of that seems to be taken into account.”

A spokesperson for Essex County Council said: “We are committed to ensuring that every child has the support they need to meet their educational potential. For the majority of pupils, their needs can be met within a mainstream educational setting.

“In cases where a request is put forward for an Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment (EHCNA), the application will be fully assessed by experienced colleagues within the SEND operations and inclusion and psychology services, based on the information they are given.

“While it would not be appropriate to share details of an individual case, we have reiterated our offer to work with the family to ensure they have the support they need.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter