Mum’s fight for autistic kids

29th June 2011'Angela Barker with son Alex who has Aspergers ' PICTURE: MATTHEW PAGE
29th June 2011'Angela Barker with son Alex who has Aspergers ' PICTURE: MATTHEW PAGE

A MUM who faced an “uphill battle and a lack of understanding” for her autistic son’s schooling has has backed a campaign to help children with special needs.

Angela Barker, 39, from Wakefield, decided to share the struggle she had to get help for son Alex, in support of the launch of the National Autistic Society’s Great Expectations campaign this week.

Her son Alex was excluded twice from school and she says it was due to a lack of understanding and awareness of the condition’,

The mum-of-three, said: “Before he was diagnosed at the age of 10, I was regularly being called into school or nursery about his behaviour, which was always put down to a change in circumstances like me going back to work.

“I kept being told he was naughty, and we were at crisis point at home because we didn’t know how to deal with it.

“He was on a never-ending waiting list for assessment, which didn’t help matters, and eventually he got excluded.

“We are the kind of parents who take a lot of pride in our kids and their behaviour, so it was devastating because there is such a stigma attached to exclusion, people never think there might be an underlying cause.”

But a move to a new junior school proved to be a temporary turning point for Alex.

Mrs Barker said: “They were amazing with him and knew just how to handle his behaviour. We saw such a change in him and he ended up achieving level fives in his year 6 SAT tests.”

Unfortunately, the move to secondary school soon took Alex back to square one.

Mrs Barker said: “There is a lack of training and understanding of autism and other special needs among teachers in some schools.

“He really struggled and was excluded again.”

Alex now attends Airedale Academy where he is flourishing thanks to tailored support from staff.

His mum added: “We’ve had to move miles out of our catchment area but it’s worth it. He’s already getting better than predicted grades in some subjects, and his social skills are coming on leaps and bounds.”

The campaign aims to influence the government’s reforms on special educational needs (SEN).

She added: “Having autism should not be a barrier to learning. The education system needs to change to allow pupils, regardless of ability, to access learning and be given the opportunity to shine.”