Story 18: Sally, Warwickshire

My daughter struggled (with the amount of people, noise, proximity, demands) in nursery and primary school but we didn’t get a diagnosis until she was 8.

Until then we didn’t know what was wrong and how to help her. At its worst she would refuse to leave the house, was violent and destructive, began to restrict food and couldn’t sleep.

After many battles with the council (she masked in school) we managed to get her a place at a specialist school and life is completely different.

She is doing well academically, has friends, engages in school trips and activities, eats, sleeps and is much happier at home.

Story 16: Parent, UK

As a parent of neurodivergent children, I thought I had found the perfect school (independent, very nurturing and supportive with good SEN support).

Moving up the the senior school in the same environment should have been easy except it was the most horrific experience for my children and my family.

The SENCO “forgot” that the chicken needed SEN support, there were a catalogue of disasters in the school (secondary) such as no timetables being made available to any child, no pastoral support, no kindness and empathy at all, just judgments from heads of year who all closed ranks on complaint, parents who did the same.

The whole experience was extremely scarring and still is to this day. One child wanted to take their own life, one collapsed in the street on the way to school with the stress of lack of SEN support.

Both are now home educated and it’s taken two years to get their confidence back. This school was extremely damaging to my children and family.

Story 15: Sarah, Somerset

My Son had always had noticeable differences in behaviour since birth, but became more noticeable from age 2 years. His first few years at school were mostly unproblematic, bar a few niggles which we worked on.

Moving from Ks1 to Ks2 is where the problems really began. He struggled making friends, struggled with the large class size, couldn’t concentrate and retain verbal information, struggled with the change in style of learning. It began with teachers declaring he was an “under achiever” and didn’t concentrate or listen enough.

He slowly became withdrawn, stopped talking, noticed by his grandparents mostly (preferring to grunt), he was always totally exhausted after school and would hide under blankets and hoods as soon as possible to shut out the world. Time went on and things got worse. School put measures in place to help but would withdraw the help immediately when an improvement was seen!

We waited year after year to meet the SENCO but it was always deemed what they were doing should be enough! By the end of year 5, he developed panic attacks, would be physically sick while at school, wouldnt eat would refuse to attend and when he did teachers would restrain him for me to leave, he would say he “didnt feel safe”.

He was isolated in the library during playtime as being outside was too much, isolated having his lunch on his own as he couldn’t cope with the smells of the food hall and noise that went with it. And still no help from the SENCO. I was told during this time that applying for an EHCP “would be a waste of time”, He began part-time schooling, but after 3 weeks was told by the head teacher he had to come back full time or try a different school.

At this point, we decided for both his mental and physical health, that we would home educate, any school at this stage was just to trumatic for him. We are still dealing with his trauma from the years his needs were not met, its been 3 years since leaving.

He sees a therapist once a week who helps him cope with the anxiety and panic attacks he still suffers with. He now has a confirmed diagnosis of ADHD and ASD. He is thriving at home, has friends who understand him, and his needs are paramount in all he does both educationaly and in leisurely, but it makes me so sad that in the school environment his individual needs were so dismissed.

Story 14: Parent, Somerset

As the parent of a young person I have fought for an ASD assessment since she was 4 years old and consistently been told by schools that they don’t recognise a problem.

Now, age 13, her mental health is suffering, she has anxiety and has become withdrawn. Only now am I getting some recognition from school that she has masked all these years.

It makes me so sad how neurodivergent young people, particularly girls, get overlooked because they are coping too well outwardly.

Now, I’ve been advised of a 2 year plus wait for an assessment and we face heading into GCSE’s with increasing school avoidance and an academic decline.

Story 13: Parent, Somerset

School Story:
Daughter suffering with anxiety for many years and school refusal on and off for most of year 9

What worked well:
Not being called on to speak in class and part time timetable until comfortable going back full time

What would have made a difference?
Smaller less noisy classes

Story 11: Parent, Wiltshire

When my daughter was in primary, she was so confident and happy. I thought she would do well transferring to secondary but it couldn’t further from the truth.

In the 5 months since she started at secondary, her confidence has hit rock bottom, she would close herself away in her room as soon as she came home from school, she would be aggressive towards us (her parents) she wouldn’t want to engage with any family activities and hated talking about school.

Every morning would be a struggle to get her up and ready to go to school. I’ve sent around 20 emails to school and had 2 meetings to talk about my worries about my daughter.

They keep saying “she’s fine in school” I’ve explained countless times that she is masking while at school and all the emotions come out once she’s home. The SENCO haven’t replied to one of my emails or attended either meetings. I’ve suggested a few options which might help my daughter while in school, such as, a reduced timetable and going to a smaller classroom but all have been refused.

The school keep on about her attendance but won’t meet her needs to help her feel comfortable in school. The head of year has suggested I should punish her for not going into school by refusing to let her see friends and even “making her day at home as uncomfortable as possible “.

She even said that I should make her wear her school uniform at home and do homework. I’ve asked for an alternative provision but they said, she doesn’t have high enough needs…

What could make a difference?
Listen to myself and my daughter and provide the support needed.