By Youna Kabongo
According to the National Autistic Society, around 700,000 people in the UK are on the autism spectrum. This equates to 1 in 100 and 2.7 million families living with autism every day.
Autism is a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them. Although it affects people from all nationalities and cultural, religious and social backgrounds, more females than males suffer from the condition.
With adequate support from an early age, autistic children are able to develop into responsible adults, contributing to both society and the economy. But currently, with schools overcrowding and funds being cut, many children are not getting the support needed to develop into such adults.
“I have been fighting with Cuckoo Hall School in Enfield, north London, for two years for my son’s speech therapy referral and he doesn’t have an experienced teacher. They keep saying that because of school’s funding cut, they are not able to provide a specialist teacher,” said 37-year-old Aphonsine Bendji, a sales assistant at Iceland whose 5-year-old son was diagnosed two years ago.
“Now I have to pay £400 for six sessions of speech therapy by myself as I cannot delay it any longer. It’s really hard with my salary but my child is my priority,” she added.
“There was so less support from the school that I had to educate myself about autism. And even after learning a lot, I felt that my son Daniel’s potential was not being used to the fullest, said Nadine Wauters. She received training in education and relocated to her native country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. There she opened a school for autistic and special needs children, Les Amis de Daniel, which means Daniel’s friends in French.
“Ever since Daniel started attending the school, he is a much happier child. I don’t regret my decision. He is getting the type of education I wouldn’t have been able to give him here in the UK,” she said, adding that she currently splits her time between the two countries.
Michelle’s -declined to give her last name to protect her child identity- eight-year-old daughter, was excluded from Keys Meadow Primary School, also in Enfield, for behavioural problems. After joining a different school, she was diagnosed with autism.
“She is a totally different child, much happier and doing well in school. In a way, I am glad she was excluded because we managed to find out the root of the problem and give her the support she needs,” Michelle says.
Children with autism don’t develop skills at the same rate like other children. Some are affected more than others. For example, a child might take long to learn few words while another but might speak like children of his age but unable to interact with others.
“I left the school I was teaching because the funding which was allocated for children with special needs was being used for something else. I just couldn’t take it anymore”, said Shikira Alleyne-Samuel from Kreative Pursuit.
“Now I run my own business, Kreative Pursuit, working with parents and their autistic children through enhancing mental wellbeing with the use of creativity and artistic expression”, she added.
Both Cuckoo Hall and Keys Meadow school declined to comment, stating that they do not comment on individual cases.
It is advised to get a child tested at the earliest If you think your child might suffer from autism
Courtesy of Autism UK Enfield Map: Youna Kabongo