Imagine-se a viver com uma criança com autismo. Agora imagine lutar com unhas e dentes para lhe conseguir um lugar na escola.
Foi isto o que Suzanne Buckner teve de fazer após a exclusão escolar do seu filho de nove anos de uma escola Inglesa.
Mas ela não desistiu da sua educação; Em vez disso ela montou uma escola e contratou um professor especialista para o ajudar.
“O Freddy começou numa escola privada”, diz Suzanne. “Lá faziam-lhe coisas encantadoras como colocá-no no meio dos amigos de forma a que estes pudessem dizer-lhe porque não gostavam dele. Era uma luta para ele entrar no carro depois de andar por cima de uma máquina de lavar industrial, ou de vidro partido. Ele começou a detester a escola e tudo o que ela representava.
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Acabamos por ir parar à escola primária local, que foi seleccionda por ter uma base ética Cristã. Mais uma vez, em poucas semanas, Freddie ficava numa mesa sozinho, começamos então a receber telefonemas e ele foi permanentemente excluído depois do meio dia.”
Deste modo Suzanne criou uma escola em Outubro de 2008. Freddie é ainda o único aluno da escola apesar de ser um local registado e inspeccionado. A escola está aberta a todas as crianças com autismo.
Imagine living with a child with autism. And then imagine having to fight tooth and nail to get him a school place.That's what Suzanne Buckner had to do after her nine-year-old son Freddie was excluded from school.But she didn't give up on his education; instead she set up a school and employed a specialist teacher to help him."Freddie went to private school," she said."They would do charming things to him like put him in the middle of a circle of friends so they could tell him why they disliked him."It was a struggle to try to get him into a car after he put his foot through an industrial washing machine, or through pained glass."He just began to inherently dislike school and everything it represented."We then ended up at a local primary school, which we selected because it had a Christian-based ethos."Yet again, within a few weeks, Freddie was on a table by himself, then we started getting phone calls, then he was permanently excluded after 12 o'clock."So Suzanne set up the facility in South Street, Reading, in October 2008. But Freddie is still the only pupil in the school despite it being Ofsted registered and inspected.
Suzanne Buckner runs the school in ReadingComplex autismSuzanne says that other children with complex autism could be taught there, saving the Local Education Authority hundreds of thousands of pounds because they wouldn't have to send them out of the area.Freddie is hyper intelligent. His IQ is in the top 4% in country for his age but he is in the lowest 4% for short term memory.This means he gets very cross very quickly and when frustrated he is unable to express himself except through physical means.Although Freddie's school is an independent school, the pupil's costs are met by the family's Wokingham LEA which pays £54,000 annually.That covers the running costs in the building which Suzanne herself already owned.The school in the centre of Reading has two classrooms, each with several desks, posters on walls - all the 'normal' school stuff you'd expect. It has a playground outside with hopscotch area and football goals.Suzanne explained that a simple test might help all children who have the symptoms Freddie went through."Typically these children end up in secondary school, under performing, under achieving," she said."40% of children presented to secondary school can't read or write which means they can't access education."There are some very cheap simple tests like hearing, eye and dyslexia testing which would cost us as tax payers £500 per child."It would very quickly access what is going on with a child. An awful lot of children get labelled with autism and ASD and it's almost because it's an easier diagnosis to give than some of the perhaps more complex diagnosis that we deal with.Soul destroyingShe described what was like seeing her son go through expulsion."It's absolutely soul destroying and it takes a toll on the family and the carers that have to be involved with a child like this."You've got to cope with their behaviours - my son has threatened me with knives and with screwdrivers."He can be highly unpredictable, he is highly complex. That is hard enough in itself without having to fight people that we pay to be in positions, supposedly to help, when they don't necessarily."There are an awful lot of political agendas going on and they don't help the children, they don't help the family.Now she says he is doing really well at her school."He is getting a wonderful education. I can't describe to you the day that he wrote my husband and I a letter."He is now out performing mainstream school children at his age in many subjects although he is profoundly dyslexic."Parents' preferenceCouncillor Mark Ralph is the lead councillor for education and children's services in Reading.He said: "It's relatively new and we respond to parents' preferences regarding schools and providing that in the best interest of the child and to date we haven't had any parents wanting to send their children to Freddie's."Councillor Rob Stanton is the executive member for children's services in Wokingham.He said: "I do believe we are and again this is worked out by educational psychiatrists with the parents. Parents have a preference here."There is another issue with Wokingham in that we do have Abingdon School within our area."That is an outstanding school and offers superb facilities for some of these young people. So we do have very good facilities and there are many others too in the areas around, Reading, Maidenhead etc.
"We are very open-minded about this but no-one has actually asked for that particular school for that child."