High cost of ignoring evidence

5th December 1997 at 00:00
Your article (TES, November 21) was misleading in suggesting that it is expensive to educate autistic children in the Boston Higashi school. The equivalent British residential schools cost between Pounds 50,000 and Pounds 120,000 a year per pupil and yet are far less effective.

Nor are local authorities seriously interested in evidence that Higashi works. Whatever is best for the child, councils never want to fund provision out of their borough. Therefore children with severe autism are denied any quality of life before they even start and are frequently sent to schools where they are drugged to keep them under control.

I have been round the country talking to local authorities; they really do not care about our children. Parents have to go to war to get proper provision. Most children are put into the nearest school for severe learning difficulties which is entirely the wrong place for them and their behaviour worsens. Finally, when the child grows and gets out of control, she or he is then funded at an expensive institution in England, some at Pounds 100,000 or more a year for life.

Parents have formed the Higashi Association to fight back, to protect our children. Living with autism is hell, only the parents know and understand their child's needs. Local authorities will never find out about Higashi because they do not talk to the people who know, the parents.

My son has been in Boston for five years. He made more progress in three months there than in three years in English schools. Now it is a bigger decision to bring him back than it was to send him. The school is so superior to anything here. My authority only pays the UK equivalent, we pay the rest. It costs us more than Pounds 20,000 per year of our own money. But it is worth it.

It is wicked, immoral and a waste of public money that disabled children and their parents should have to go through the tribunal system and have to hire lawyers and barristers on legal aid.

TERRY MURRAY

Chairman British Higashi Hope Foundation 71 Heath Park Road Romford Essex

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