Consultation with parents of children with autism must improve

Councillor Charles Buchan says parents and carers are worried that the guidelines for the support of their children in Aberdeenshire schools are not clear enough
Councillor Charles Buchan says parents and carers are worried that the guidelines for the support of their children in Aberdeenshire schools are not clear enough

SNP and Labour councillors have continued their demands for Aberdeenshire Council to engage more clearly with parents of children with additional needs.

This follows the refusal of the Tory chair of the Education and Children’s Services to consider a motion from Councillor Karen Adam, relating to specific communication with parents of children with autism.

The opposition councillors were however pleased to have their comments on the need for better consultation with parents and carers of children with additional needs accepted for inclusion into the Parental Engagement Report, at Thursday’s meeting of the Education and Children’s Services Committee.

Councillor Adam said:, “The way that parents engage with schools is different for those who have children with neurological and behavioural disorders and we need more recognition of that. Within the autistic community in Aberdeenshire, there are real frustrations with the lack of formal opportunities to discuss these issues.

"I hear from a lot of constituents, as well as my knowledge from personal experience, that the need for communication with support staff as well as school management when you have a child with autism, is very different. You may have to engage twice a year with one child whereas with children who have additional needs, it may be twice a day. I think that needs to be recognised more by the Education Service.”

Fraserburgh councillor Charles Buchan agreed, stating: “Parents and carers are worried that the guidelines for the support of their children in Aberdeenshire schools are not clear enough, and many find it difficult to understand policy on support and school exclusion. In particular, the transition from primary to secondary is a critical time and parents need to know where and how they will be listened to with regard to this transition.

“Another worry is the procedure of diagnosis of behavioural conditions. Although the final diagnosis is down to the NHS, often GPs, parents and carers involve the schools during discussions. Many parents feel that the various pathways towards diagnosis are not clear to them, and that their children may not get the support they need.”

Councillor Adam added: “The difficulties of parents of children with additional needs cannot be overestimated and how officers will consult with them needs to be clear.”