Child misses year of school

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The Independent Online
YVONNE WELLS-Richardson, whose son is profoundly autistic, is one of thousands of parents who have spent months agonising while local authorities decide their children's future.

Thomas, 9, has not been in a classroom for more than a year since his mother removed him from a school which she thought unsuitable for a child with his special needs.

After asking Solihull Local Education Authority in Birmingham for a reassessment of Thomas last October, Ms Wells-Richardson had to wait until July this year for a statement. The delay has proved costly for her son, who suffers from epilepsy, severe communication problems and incontinence.

Ms Wells-Richardson claimed: "Solihull LEA should have completed the re-assessment by March but they didn't produce the statement until July." She said that she requested a place at a school which has a unit for children with autism but there was such a delay that the place was lost.

After rejecting a place at another authority school because she thought it was not suitable, Thomas's case is now going to a tribunal, which will not be heard until January.

"With Thomas still out of school we could be looking at an independent school which will cost an arm and a leg," said Ms Wells-Richardson.

She added: "I have repeatedly rejected this school on the grounds that it doesn't meet the needs of a child with autism."

Ms Wells-Richardson has set up a group called Speaak which stands for "supporting parents for early action for autistic kids".

"I'm not alone in having these problems," she said.

A spokeswoman for Solihull LEA said: "We are not able to comment on individual circumstances.To do so would be a breach of confidentiality."