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Parents of Children with ASD Continue to be Targeted by Local Authorities
- AuthorNathan Davies
Earlier in the year, I wrote a series of blogs regarding the variety of unsavoury tactics employed by Local Authorities across England and Wales who attempt to discredit parents of children with special educational needs. I referred to intervention from Social Services (when parents are seeking additional support for their child/children) as a means of instilling fear in parents to comply or risk further action being taken against them as they will be regarded as ‘bad parents’.
A BBC investigation conducted recently in Wales has revealed that families have essentially been blamed for their autistic child’s presentation and ordered to attend parenting courses. Families have expressed fear as to non-compliance which, as was referred to in my blog posts, potentially would lead to increased scrutiny from Social Services, or possibly their child being placed on the Child Protection Register (or in extreme cases, care proceedings would be threatened). Such tactics are therefore clearly continuing and bringing them to the attention of the public is hopefully going to bring about wholesale changes.
The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) has specified that Local Authorities would be reforming their services as a result. The main proposal is the introduction of a new Integrated Autism Service. It is unclear as to the remit of the service but if it is only to raise awareness of autism, this does not go far enough. There must be comprehensive and formal training for all professionals involved in all matters pertaining to children on the autistic spectrum, not only to understand their needs but to assist their parents in catering for them in the home environment.
Autism is a very complex condition that affects each individual differently. High levels of anxiety, sensory processing difficulties and challenging behaviour can be features of a child’s presentation on the spectrum; without the knowledge and expertise to understand these issues and how they affect the child, it is unclear how professionals involved can assist or undertake proper assessments.
Parents being vilified for seeking to obtain support (whether it be in a social care or educational context, or both) for their disabled child has become commonplace unfortunately. Whilst there are undoubtedly some very knowledgeable and informed social care professionals assisting families in such circumstances, they remain in the minority as can be gathered from the aforementioned investigation.
This issue is not solely concentrated within Wales; a variety of English Authorities adopt similar approaches which show a clear lack of knowledge and understanding of autism (in particular) that requires immediate remedy.
Whilst the recent proposals of the WLGA may appear like a step in the right direction, only time will tell if these changes bring about a departure from blaming parents to providing appropriate support for them and their vulnerable child.