Monday, 10 January 2011

PM and disabilities

The school  where I work is for severely autistic kids with challenging behaviour and complex needs.  X arrived a year or so ago aged 17, still in nappies (diapers), six foot tall and with no means of communication other than crying, scratching and biting.  He'd spent his life bumping around schools and homes that could not meet his needs, but were also not quite as expensive.

At first a lot of people wouldn't work with him, because he was stressful to be with and the bites and scratches often hit their target.  He eventually moved into the boarding house and to everyone's surprise began to settle into the routine, started to understand a little of what was expected of him. He still scratched and bit and cried, but gradually with the routine, the expertise, the consistency and a team of carers and teachers who understand autism, things started to change.

A request would come as tug on the arm instead of a slash.  He began to use very basic symbols to request food.  He started to smile with a huge infectious grin. He started to look at people instead of through them.  Yesterday after a shower he cried and jumped up  and down to get his way, but he didn't try to hurt anyone, and after a few minutes gave up trying to go to bed at 2pm and happily held hands down the stairs.  He understands simple words and can make simple choices. For a lad who has been blessed with so little he has made huge strides, and people have started to enjoy working with him.

There are so many children who have no hope of any sort of life without schools like this.

In the summer 10 students reached 19 years and moved on to other places, but only one new boy turned up to replace them.  The Coalition cuts were already starting to bite.

One to one care in a school with the requisite teams of carers, teachers, speech therapists, psychologists and so on is incredibly expensive and with nine places unfilled,  funding for the school (from local authorities) is getting dangerously low. Councils are trying to find cheaper alternatives, like all the well meaning places that failed X in his life.

Managers at the school are already talking not about how the school will progress, but about how it can survive.

My son's place, a village for severely autistic adults, is having exactly the same problem.

The conversation in  the local hairdressers today (not started by me) was about how astonishing it is that David Cameron, who has had his own experience of caring for a profoundly disabled son, could have so little concern about the disproportionate damage his cuts are already starting to inflict on the lives of disabled people and their families.

1 comment:

Dave Winter said...

Sorry to hear how the cuts are affecting your young people.
I have tweeted your blog.
Take care.