Chair, fellow Councillors and colleagues I am seconding the motion to support the adoption of a lifelong strategy for people with Autism Spectrum (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to ensure that Suffolk County Council meets its duties in a fair and transparent manner.
Good Practice in Suffolk:-
On the Lowestoft FE College website it states that the aims of The College Inclusion Charter -` Ambitious about Autism` ` Are we? What would this ambition look like?
• To encourage further education providers to commit to improving their educational offer to young people with autism and other disabilities
• To raise awareness of the needs and the rights of learners with autism in terms of 16 – 25 education
There are daily challenges faced by families, particularly the parents and siblings of autistic youngsters. It is a daily struggle which takes its toll on families. In schools Additional Needs Heads of Departments, teachers and teaching assistants play a key role in supporting young people with autism spectrum (ASD) .
On page 86 of your Agenda papers it states that 1:5 pupils in Suffolk schools have a special educational need. When an Ofsted inspector comes in to observe a teacher`s lesson he/she is expected to know in great detail which students have Special Educational Needs including those with ASD or ADHD. The teacher is asked about pupil progression and the strategies that are in place to support and ensure that the student achieves.
The `Big Picture` here is that Suffolk County Council needs to ensure that the educational opportunities and progression of young people with ASD and ADHD are supported fully (alongside their families) to achieve by giving them an `educational supportive springboard`.
What could be improved and What works?
• Asperger East Anglia (North Suffolk) lost support workers due to Norfolk County Council ceasing its funding – something like this organisation is needed in Suffolk. There is some cross border county support from Essex County Council but there is not enough. There is a lack of county wide support for Autistic young people and their carers.
• Activities Unlimited which is a means to access social and leisure type activities with a budget is a self assessment on-line system and carers can get £500 – £1,000 to spend on their son or daughter`s care of a year.
• Mainstream schools:-
A large number of young people with ASD are educated in mainstream schools. Where there is evidence of good practice this information needs to be shared amongst all mainstream schools. Also if the educational needs of young people are not being met do we know why? How do we find this out?
• FE Colleges and Post 16 support With the exception of `The Junction` at Stowmarket which has some support for post 16 young people and transition at Lowestoft College there is very little college provision for young people with complex and challenging autism. In addition some young people in Suffolk attend specialist schools.
• There is a `drop off` at 19. There are personalised budgets but young people do not get the same amount of provision – at the most 2/3 days per week. Someone therefore has to support them for the other two days per week (this is difficult if one or two carers are in full time employment).
There is not enough respite care for youngsters and their carers particularly if the young person is at the more challenging end of the ASD spectrum – families need more help.
• Distance to travel for suitable provision
• Create a Regional Centre of Excellence in Suffolk (along the lines of the Norwich one)
• Get more places like `Lynfield` in Ditchingham near Bungay where there is long term supported accommodation
What do families need? Do we know? Where is there good practice to tap into?
Most families need advice and support when dealing with a young person with ADHD – often the entire family`s life is centred around the child. There is often as stated by Cllr Adams a lateness in diagnosis. It is certainly not automatic that they have a statement of Special educational Needs either. Young people with ADHD are prone to getting excluded and can be confrontational. They are often prescribed `Ritalin` which quite rightly needs medical monitoring as its effects differ from young person to young person.
ADHD students are more likely to get into trouble with the police due to their risky behaviours outside school too.
Holiday Provision and Support Groups:-
Parents of young people with ADHD need holiday provision to enable them to enjoy the school holidays with their son or daughter.
Parents of ADHD young people often form strong self support groups amongst themselves purely as a `life support system` . Some parents work well with individual schools and there are some excellent examples of good practice but what actually works needs to be disseminated across Suffolk. That is why we need a Suffolk strategy.
I too hope that you all feel that you are able to support the motion to ensure that we have a comprehensive and far reaching strategy for all the people of Suffolk and to be able to be proud that we live in a county where people with Autistic Spectrum disorders and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder feel they are truly part of an inclusive society.