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Moray failing autistic kids, says mum

By Alistair Whitfield

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THE mum of an autistic child has claimed youngsters like her son are being forgotten by the authorities in Moray.

Emma's son John (not their real names) struggled as soon as he began at a local primary school at the age of four.

She said: "He was quickly labelled as 'the naughty child'.

"Other parents didn't want their children associating with him and wasn't invited to birthday parties.

"As his mother, you could feel yourself being judged.

"It was unfair because it wasn't my fault and it certainly wasn't his."

Emma finally decided to take her son out of the school due to bullying.

John was eventually diagnosed with autism at the age of 11.

She said: "Hearing that brought on a range of emotions.

"You go through something of a grieving process but, on the other, it's a relief to finally know what the problem is."

However, even with a diagnosis and her son's move up to secondary school, Emma says the situation did not improve.

She added: "He was placed back in mainstream education and he just couldn't manage.

"He just wasn't able to cope with moving between seven different classrooms every day.

"I had to take him out of school again.

"I'm all for inclusion in education but sometimes it's like trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole."

Three months ago, Emma went to see Moray's MP Douglas Ross about the issue.

Following his involvement, John is now going to school on a part-time basis where he is being taught in a special unit.

However, her concerns remain over how autistic children in Moray are deal with.

Emma said: "Looking after an autistic child has an impact on every area of your life.

"It can be difficult trying to hold down a job.

"At one point I was having to take time off work to look after my son and that could have led to all sorts of financial difficulties.

"I don't want to sound over-dramatic but it's been a journey through hell.

"I feel autistic youngsters in Moray are like forgotten children.

"There should be more support out there."

Mr Ross criticised Moray Council for not having had a designated lead for autism since 2017 or produced any annual reports.

He said: "I've previously raised individual cases, and wrote again recently after receiving further complaints from constituents.

"I was disgusted that in response to my detailed concerns I received a two-paragraph reply.

"This suggests the council are not interested in addressing their complete failure to support people with autism in Moray.

"The fact that three years have been allowed to elapse with no monitoring or updates of the council's autism strategy is shocking.

"I can understand why families feel so badly let down."

A spokesperson for Moray Council said: "Regrettably there has been a lack of action in relation to the autism strategy, and for that we apologise.

"We are now seeking to redress this, ensuring that our services are designed around the needs of our children and families, in a way which works best for them.

"We provide specialist support, when required, through specific autism services across Moray and will continue to work with our partners to achieve this."

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