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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 September 2006, 19:35 GMT 20:35 UK
Minister vows autism cash review
Lord Adonis
The schools' minister accepted more needed to be done
More funding could be found for teaching autistic youngsters in England, a minister has said.

The pledge for action came after the children's commissioner for England described existing provisions as "shocking and appalling".

Schools Minister Lord Adonis told BBC Radio Five Live's Weekend News there would be improvements in training.

But he said many children already received "very good care and an extremely good education".

BBC political correspondent John Pienaar said the comments from children's commissioner Sir Al Aynsley-Green had raised the temperature of the argument to a new pitch.

Lord Adonis' response appeared to offer coded criticism of the tone of the attack, our correspondent said.

We were bandied about between lots of schools, but they were not suitable for the problems he had got

"We accept more needs to be done," Lord Adonis told the BBC.

"We are going through another spending review and we will look to see what further we can do so every child on the autism spectrum gets the support they need."

The Department for Education said local councils' budgeted spending on special needs had risen from 2.8bn in 2001-02 to 4.1bn in 2005-2006.

But Lord Adonis accepted too many autistic children were still being excluded from school, or bullied.

'Full potential'

Sir Al, who said teachers should be better trained, reached his conclusions after spending time with National Autistic Society members.

Lord Adonis said more training and guidance was needed and would be provided for teachers dealing with autistic children inside mainstream education.

Those councils still reluctant to send pupils beyond their boundaries needed to change their ways, he said.

National Autistic Society campaigner Jane Asher and children in  Downing Street
The National Autistic Society has campaigned at Downing Street

"Where there are issues to do with the quality of placements, Ofsted and the Department for Education will work with local authorities, and do intend to see improvements made," he added.

It is estimated by the National Autistic Society that there are 90,000 children with autistic spectrum disorders - which affect their social interaction and communication - and fewer than 8,000 specialist places.

Sir Al said he had been moved to speak out after meeting a group of children suffering from the condition, some of who had told him they were suicidal.

In an earlier interview he told the BBC: "It's appalling and it's shameful for our country, the fifth richest economy in the world, to have so many children that are not being looked after and given the resources they need to develop to their full potential."

Ruth McNichol, whose son George has Asperger's syndrome - a form of autism - told BBC News teachers needed to be trained to deal with autistic children.

She said the situation was "particularly bad" when children make the transition from primary to secondary school.

Ms McNichol said when her son had started secondary school "he was bullied, he withdrew from lessons in the classroom and the staff didn't appear to know how to engage with him".

"At the end of his first year at secondary school, despite not being in any way disruptive, he started self-harming and he was obviously in a great deal of distress," she said.

Hear about the case of one autistic boy

Calls for better autism schooling
23 May 06 |  Education
School inclusion 'can be abuse'
16 May 06 |  Education
03 Mar 05 |  Medical notes


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