Parents’ continued fight over education for their autistic children

A couple who battled to get the right education for their autistic son say they now face the same fight with their daughter.

Tuesday, 18th June 2019, 11:50 am
Updated Tuesday, 18th June 2019, 4:51 pm
The Mills family with their support dog Willow Star

Steve and Emma Mills fought for several years to get their son Sam, now eight, into a special school which can help his autism, severe anxiety and depression.

But the couple are now despairing at having the same battle with their daughter Ellie, who is six and also has autism and minor learning difficulties with social and emotional problems.

Sam is happily settled in Brantwood school in Nether Edge but his place is only secure until the end of Y6 when he will then be reassessed. Ellie is in a mainstream school but her parents say she needs to move to a different establishment which can support her better.

Emma, from Handsworth, said: “Sam had almost two years out of school because they didn’t have a suitable place for him. He went to mainstream school but he couldn’t cope and the school couldn’t meet his needs so in Y4 he moved to Brantwood.

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“Brantwood is an independent school and the council pays for him to go there. It’s the only school that can meet his needs and he’s very settled but he will be reviewed at the end of primary to see if there’s another, cheaper option.

“They seem to think Sam will reach an age where he can cope and hope they can cure him but he has a severe fear of learning and anxiety.

“Brantwood are amazing with him, he’s in a class with one other child and they are working with him to share the space with two children rather than one.

“He can only cope at school or at home. Even at school he has quite a lot of behavioural issues with anxiety and tries to escape but they know how to handle it.”

The family are worried Sam will lose his place at Brantwood and are still trying to find suitable education for Ellie.

Dad Steve said: “We have been through the system once so we know what we are up against. We went through this less than two years ago with Sam and now we are going through it with Ellie.

“She is in a mainstream school and not coping and the school can’t meet her needs. Ellie is happy and bubbly but she is overwhelmed in a classroom with 30 other children.

“The class is too big and noisy so she’s in a nurture room. Staff are by her side and keeping her safe but they can’t teach her anything.

“The nurture room is amazing but it’s designed to help children to build up their skills to go back into class but Ellie can’t cope in class.”

Steve and Emma want her to go to Milton special school at Mexborough or Castleton Primary. A hearing is due in October.

Emma said: “We have another few months of stress and hassle and Ellie not being in the right school for her.

“We have more hope for Sam now he is in the right school but if they don’t have that support early enough who knows what could happen to them?

“We want them to be more independent when they are older but every year they are in a school which can’t meet their needs has a detrimental effect.”

Sheffield Council says its education plans are reviewed annually.

A council spokesman said: “Children’s individual needs are always our top priority and we work with parents, schools or nursery providers and support staff to understand what is best for them.

“We review all education health care plans on an annual basis, including placements, to make sure children are in the best setting for their needs. We know some parents find the review process unsettling but it is an essential part of their child’s care plan.”