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Last Updated: Monday, 14 March 2005, 02:42 GMT
Parents suffer stress over autism
child in school
Autistic children go to mainstream schools where possible
Parents of children with autism say they get most stressed dealing with council education staff, a study says.

Research by Brunel University found that a third of parents questioned said this was the most stressful area.

Lecturer Catherine Tissot spoke to 750 parents of autistic children about their experiences.

In the UK 60 children in 10,000 are autistic, and parents need to liaise with local councils to find the right support and education for their child.

Autism is a developmental disability which affects the way someone communicates and interacts with other people but it varies in severity.

Someone with autism might have trouble relating to others in a meaningful way. They might also have learning difficulties.
Most parents viewed dealing with LEAs as a confrontational exercise
Researcher Catherine Tissot
Increasingly, children with autism go to mainstream schools or to a special unit attached to a mainstream school.

Catherine Tissot said parents complained they were not being listened to by council staff and some claimed they had been lied to.

She said: "Our research revealed a clear stress point in the system, which needs to be addressed.

"Most parents viewed dealing with LEAs as a confrontational exercise. This is completely unnecessary as both parties should have the same interests at heart - providing the best education possible for the children."


She said 54% of parents said dealing with local authority staff was stressful, while about one in three named this as the most stressful area for them.

The complexity of the special education needs system was a source of stress for 43% of those asked. A total of 12% cited this as the most stressful factor.

Researchers also contacted local education authorities for their views of the relationship between themselves and families with autistic children.

They concluded that council officers strived to work with families, but their efforts were frustrated by the increasing numbers of children suffering from autism and limitations on available places at schools parents liked.

The National Autistic Society offers advice and support to parents of children with autism.

Angie Lee Foster, from the organisation, agreed the relationship between LEA staff and parents could be fraught with difficulties.

"We get about 35,000 inquiries a year to our helpline and about 10% of these are education-related," she said.

"Policy and law around special educational needs is very complex and the system is hard for parents to understand. It's recognised that there is a postcode lottery of provision across the country.

"LEAs need to work with parents to build up trust and confidence.

"It's about having a clear and transparent system for LEAs, schools and parents so that parents can understand their rights, what's available, what schools can offer and how to access more support."

03 Mar 05 |  Medical notes
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04 Nov 04 |  Education
Special needs parents face battle
17 Feb 05 |  UK Politics
Family's landmark autism victory
06 Oct 04 |  Northern Ireland

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