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Not Stupid: One Woman's Fight for her Sons' (Special) Education

Posted Aug 22 2009 12:00am

Hillingdon manor school By Anna Kennedy

In January 1990 I gave birth to my first son, Patrick. At first, despite several health scares, it seemed Patrick was progressing normally. Then, at the age of seven, he began displaying erratic behaviour and became extremely distressed at school. His educational progress was severely limited.

Three years later, I gave birth to my second son, Angelo, who, at the age of two and a half, also began displaying most abnormal behaviour. At an assessment, Angelo was diagnosed with autism and, naturally, this was a scary and devastating blow for my husband, Sean, and myself.

Meanwhile, Patrick's strange behaviour and protests at being taken to school intensified. He was diagnosed as having Asperger's syndrome but, unfortunately, it was three years before this diagnosis was revealed to me and my husband! This meant that Patrick, wholly unsuited to mainstream education, had been forced to endure the trauma of not understanding what was required of him, and taunts such as “bird brain” from other children, at a school totally ill-equipped to cater for his specific needs.

Worse was to follow, in fact, much worse! A total of 26 special schools, within an hours drive of where my family and I lived, turned down applications for my boys' placements. Doors were being shut in our faces on a regular basis and we hardly knew where to turn.

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