Don’t write us off before we’ve started, say autistic pupils in new campaign to protect rights and funding

With Megan Horan, Ambitious About Autism

A new campaign to stop autistic children and young people being ‘written off’ at school is being launched today by charity, Ambitious about Autism. The Written Off? campaign calls on the government to protect SEND funding and families’ legal rights to get support for their children.

The charity’s new report shows two-thirds (65%) of almost 2000 families they spoke to say they are not happy with their autistic child’s mainstream education, while over a third (36%) of autistic pupils say they have been out of school against their wishes.

Ambitious about Autism is also launching a petition today calling on the government not to write off autistic children and young people’s chances of achieving in education.

The charity wants a public pledge from decision-makers that SEND funding and families’ legal rights to get support for their children will be protected.

Today we hear from Megan Horan, a member of the Ambitious Youth Network, a group of autistic young people from across the UK who campaign for change. Megan’s education has suffered from a lack of the right support and she’s worried the government’s education policies are set to write-off the next generation of autistic children too.

Don’t let the next generation of autistic children down too. By Megan Horan, Ambitious About Autism

I was diagnosed with autism aged 13, while I was attending a mainstream secondary school in Kent. Receiving the diagnosis was hard to get my head around. It meant I was different to my normal peers in my year group. I got frustrated with people who broke the school rules and I hated change.

By the time I received my diagnosis, I was already far behind in Maths and English – but I hoped this would change once I got my Education, Health and Care plan (EHCP).

When my EHCP was written it sounded amazing. Everything I needed was on there and it was meant to be reviewed yearly. I was promised additional time to process instructions and interventions in Maths and English to help me learn. But none of this ended up happening. My Maths interventions were stopped after one week because there weren't enough staff.

There was so much I struggled with at school. Teachers didn’t listen to me when I told them I couldn’t understand questions, so I would sit and cry or not take notice. School didn’t listen to my parents, who tried to tell them how to support me.

Megan Horan wears glasses and has blonde hair with a fringe.
Megan Horan

Little things would have meant so much

Simple things would have made such a difference to me being able to learn. Things that were meant to happen through my EHC plan. For example, moving from classroom to classroom for different subjects was very hard to cope with.

I found other children did not accept me. Towards the end of Year 11, the stress was too much and I hurt myself. Still, the teachers didn’t listen and insisted I completed my GCSE exams. The school was always right, and me and my family were made to feel wrong.  

I'm now in my 20s and still trying to achieve my school targets. I want to be a teaching assistant in a special school to support others with their education – but I need a C grade to get the job. I still have an EHC plan but getting support is hard. At the moment I’m waiting for a panel to decide if I should get funding to pay for support to get my grades in Maths and English. My life in school was horrible and I didn’t meet my targets. This impossible expectation of meeting targets without any support has continued into adulthood.  

The system to support people like me with special educational needs isn’t working. There is an opportunity right now to fix it with the SEND review –but as they stand, these proposals won’t solve the big issues. In fact, me and other autistic young people and families think they will make things worse, making it even harder to access support at school. 

That’s why I’m making a stand alongside Ambitious about Autism and calling on the government to protect current laws and SEND funding. Our message is clear: don’t write off autistic children and young people’s chances of achieving in education. Listen to what we are telling you weneed – and focus on making all schools better at supporting autistic pupils. 

To show your support sign Ambitious about Autism’s petition

Ambitious About Autism says…

“The special educational needs system is broken – the government knows this and so do thousands of families who are at crisis point across the country. But we fear that key aspects of the government’s SEND Review will result in more pain for families, putting at risk current laws that help children with SEND get the assessments, support, and school place they need.
“There are over 125,000 more pupils receiving help for autism in schools now than in 2010. As more pupils come through the SEND system, we must make sure there is the resource and funding to support them. We can’t risk making things worse and writing off autistic young people before they’ve even left school. That’s why we are calling on decision-makers to listen to autistic young people and their families and protect the existing laws and funding they rely on.” 

Jolanta Lasota, Chief Executive of Ambitious about Autism

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