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‘800 ways to break your heart’

A new report into unlawful exclusions tells the moving stories of autistic children sent home from school because staff can’t cope with their behaviour, and the charities behind it say official figures for the exclusion of pupils with additional support needs are just the tip of the iceberg. While a debate rages over whether the solution is more money or better teacher training, one thing is clear: this problem has a huge impact on young people and their families. Emma Seith investigates

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The parents’ voices break as painful experiences are relived. They talk about how their autistic children – for whom routine and predictability are so important – started self-harming or were close to “catatonic” from being pulled in and out of school because staff could not cope with their behaviour.

They also talk about how the instability of their children’s schooling has come close to tearing their families apart.

One father recalls being summoned into school on his son’s first day at primary because the child had fled the building by midday and was hiding under a car. The boy’s family ...

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