Please don’t steal his future.

This was Logan’s first day of school last September. That smile was the first of a million more to come.

Prior to this, since his diagnosis at 19 months, he had been in a creche, had home tuition and attended 2 different ASD units in 2 years… and none of them worked.
He was miserable, aggressive, often violent and not learning anything. He barely did a full day let alone a full week. 
When he was diagnosed with a severe intellectual disability last April we knew he needed somewhere that could offer more help.

After 3 years of heartache we finally got him where he needed to be, an amazing special school with the most caring dedicated staff and all the facilities he needed.
Since September, he has absolutely thrived. 
He is using Pecs independently. 
He is horse riding.
He’s toilet training.
He has a friend that he runs around and plays with. I’m told they catch hands and chase each other. 
Sensory aversions have always prevented Logan from taking part in messy or music play … now he sits for circle singing time every morning and last week he played with paint on his hands and tolerated it.
Every morning we have to wait until the bus enters the estate before dressing him. When you say the word school his face lights up and he runs to the door.
If the bus is late he follows us around with his bag and coat. 
I have seen the changes in him since he found this place.
He is happy. He is settled. But most importantly, he is doing what I was told he never would, and that’s learning.

Logan is 5, and because he doesn’t turn 6 until November, he was guaranteed a second year of preschool as he would still only be 5 when that year started. I had his name on the waiting list for the main school before he even started so the plan was 2 years in preschool and then onto the main school where he could stay until 18… if hopefully a place came up.
I thought we were sorted. 
Today I’ve been told that’s all about to end.

He doesn’t have a place in his school in September.

The department of education. 
Their reason?
That they are a enforcing a policy that has apparently always been in place and I should have never been told he’d get two years. That if a child that is turning 6 that year they cannot be in preschool.
The most ridiculous part of that argument, is that there is a boy in his class who is 6 and a half years old as we speak. But I was told this was in error and wouldn’t be repeated. I’ve since heard of at least 10 more kids that are in preschool and all that age.
I just don’t get it. Why would my Logan be any different?
I was advised this week to appeal the decision. 
I appealed with an email that was a mile long, detailing his past and how far he has come, and today that was refused. By a line manager, and again by her manager. 
And there’s nothing they can do.

I can’t believe in this day and age I even have to write that. A child, who has autism and a severe intellectual disability cannot continue on in the school that was built to cater for kids just like him.
Now I’m a reasonable person. If he’s too old for preschool, by all means move him on.
But surely the solution is to move him to a school.. not send him home for a year or possibly two if we’re lucky and hope after that time a place becomes available.

And offering home tuition is not a solution. Even though they act like it is, it isn’t. 
When he was doing home tuition before he screamed and cried in one room while I hid in another. He learned nothing, he attacked his tutor every day and she often left in tears because she knew she couldn’t help him.
The entire time was heartbreaking, stressful and utterly pointless.
I swore I’d never put us through that again. I certainly didn’t think I’d need to look at it 4 years later. 
The Department like to offer home tuition as an alternative to school. Here’s what they don’t tell you.
They’ll fund it, that’s the easy part, but you have to find the tutor.
Trying to find a qualified tutor who happens to be a member of the teaching council, but isn’t already working in a school is practically impossible. And I’d need someone experienced in both autism and intellectual disabilities. 
If you do find someone how exactly do they expect Logan to sit for 4 hours a day and learn like he does in school in his own house? 
Where his toys are.
Where his swings and trampoline and dog is.
Where the TV and the iPad is.
Where his Mommy is.

Home tuition won’t help. I’ll tell you what having him home will do.
It’ll delete everything we have worked so hard to achieve. 
It’ll regress every milestone and achievement the staff in the school worked so hard to get from him.
And it’ll remove any hope of him reaching his potential. 
It’s not feasible, or even an option here.
It’s not the answer.

School is the answer. 
The right place.
Those are the answers to unlocking Logan’s potential.
He may never read or write but he’ll learn other things. Life skills like dressing, feeding, toileting and maybe someday even speech. 
He deserves that chance. 
He deserves to be around other kids and in an environment that can help him. We finally found that and now it’s gone.

I don’t understand how this is fair.
Even if I wanted to place him somewhere else now I can’t.
Of the 5 special schools in Cork, 2 are full for the next 2 years at least, and the other 2 he cannot even apply for. For the first one, he is too severe and for the second, because he has a dual diagnosis of ASD and ID which they do not accept.
Today I applied for the last one… even though it’s over an hour away and we are the bottom of the list. I’m not holding my breath but I had to apply.

What’s my alternative? What choice do I have?
Am I not entitled to have my son leave for school in the morning and enjoy a few hours to myself before he comes home?

Having Logan continue on in a school is as much a safety issue as it is an educational one. Since he started there we have not had any incidents with him being violent in the school and these have reduced dramatically at home too.
Logan absolutely thrives on routine and even a day off for a bank holiday results in absolute chaos. There is no way it is feasible to have him at home for a year. I could not place him in the care of a stranger who he could physically harm and would do without question. I would not be able explain to him why Kirsty is leaving on her bus each morning, and he no longer is and I have no doubt he would become extremely violent towards myself and Kirsty if he has no placement.
If he cannot attend a school then he will spend 12 months at home doing nothing. I am not qualified to carry on his learning. 
My own mental health suffered drastically over the last 3 years trying to get Logan what he needed. It has taken a huge toll on our family and I do not want to go back to that stress and torment of having him home all day. Having 2 kids with special needs is extremely hard on me as a stay at home mom and I need that school break from the kids to function and be the best mother for them. I don’t have family nearby to help me when Logan has meltdowns and my husband’s job is in Ringaskiddy, over an hour away. In the last 4 years I had a spinal fusion surgery on my back to remove 3 discs, and a knee replacement to remove a giant cell tumour from my knee, so my physical strength has been compromised and as Logan is quite a big strong child it’s very tough for me to restrain him when he lashes out. I can no longer lift him.

Is it fair that I’ll have to see him cry and scream when Kirsty leaves for school every morning and know he’ll never understand why he can’t go. And be attacked repeatedly out of his frustration?
If you pulled a normal child out of school for a year I’m pretty sure you’d be charged with neglecting them… but kids with special needs, yes send them home , they’ll be fine. 
He is being denied an education and why? 
Because he can’t talk.
Because his mind works differently.
Because he has special needs.

How can a country do this to their own? 
How can they deny an education to those who need it the most? 
How can they do this to my innocent boy?

I am utterly devastated.😔

Elaine Healy is mum to Kirsty (7) who has Autism and Logan (5) who has dual diagnosis of Autism & Severe Intellectual Disability. She writes daily for her Blog “Life Upside Down”. You can find out more about Elaine and her family over on their Facebook Blog and their Instagram Account.

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