Missing the point

1st June 2007 at 01:00
As a parent of a child with an autistic disorder and a campaigner for people with autism, I found the article on Fife Council's educational outreach service for children with autism grossly misleading ("Thinking from beginning to end", May 18).

The article illustrates the case of just one pupil in the main, and refers to one more. Even with limited resources to enable us to contact fellow parents, Autism Rights knows of three families in Fife who are extremely angry about the provision that has been made by the authority.

Would any other educational provision be thought competent or adequate if teachers were having to phone or email to ask for "tips" on how to teach a child? What training do teachers receive prior to embarking on their secondment to Fife's autism outreach service? A day release course? A six-day course in ASD? Or do they undertake any of the postgraduate professional (although non-TQ) qualifications in autism, which take one to two years to complete?

Of 623 children with ASD in Fife, only 60 are part of the "caseload" of the outreach service at any one time. As the National Autistic Society describes autism as a "lifelong disability", can it explain why 563 children with autism should be expected miraculously to overcome their disability, being left to the tender mercies of professionals who, at best, are "trained" by teachers who are lacking in professional expertise?

Articles like this continually miss the point: children with autism need an education that is qualitatively different from other children. They cannot get this in what currently passes for educational "inclusion" but is, in effect, exclusion from school, education and life chances.

For a profession that lauds its professionalism at every turn, it is a disgrace that there are no professional standards such as teaching qualifications for children with a severe and complex disability like autism.

Fiona Sinclair Convener, Autism Rights

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