Let’s not criminalize ourselves because our children are struggling, criticizes MADDIE ROBERTS | Express a comment | Comment

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It took five long years to get him the specialist help he needed after being assumed to be a naughty child. My wonderfully intelligent son has autism and suffers from a rare form of anxiety. But by the time he was diagnosed, the years of psychological suffering were over.

Barbaric government plans are now in place to criminalize parents who listen to their children beg them not to send them to school, as I did. Never again.

That is why I have joined other parents in calling for the new Schools Bill to be scrapped, because we cannot put schools across the country in the impossible position of assessing whether a child with special needs skip school or not.

Last week it was announced that parents will face fines if their child has unauthorized vacations or more than five days away in a term without permission. Prosecutions would follow if the plans came to fruition.

I think this is just plain discrimination, because mistakes will happen and parents will be forced to choose between having a criminal record or harming their children under proposals before Parliament.

This will not only cause immense harm to vulnerable children, but will break families apart.

For those like me who would rather go to jail than ignore their child’s needs, we will see rising unemployment as we lose our jobs.

We are in the midst of a cost of living crisis and I am a 40 year old nurse who had to give up her job as I fought tooth and nail to give Harleigh the education every child deserves.

My husband Leigh and I have two other children.

While 12-year-old Kayla is doing well in school, I may have to relive it all.

My youngest, Vinnie, is suffering from growing anxiety about starting primary school in September. If these laws are enforced, I’d rather be called a criminal than put Vinnie through what Harleigh went through. It all started five years ago, when he didn’t want to go to school.

He missed a day here and there as his anxiety increased, but at the time of the pandemic it was whole weeks. The teachers kept telling me he was a happy boy and suggested I take parenting classes when I told them he was having hysterics from going to school. school.

When I racked up council fines, I fought them. And it was during the call that Harleigh was seen by a consultant and diagnosed with autism, pathological demand avoidance and ADHD, as well as being traumatized to the point that he can’t bear watching a school building.

An independent investigator sided with me and criticized the council for not listening to my concerns.

I remember physically forcing him through the school gates, yelling at him and begging me not to.

He spent weeks in his bedroom during the first lockdown and suffered from OCD washing his hands seeing the slogan Stay At Home, Save Lives everywhere he looked.

Harleigh is thriving now that he is taking part in an out-of-school education program, which provided specialist tuition and mentoring from February.

He loves space and learning about it with his new VR headset, and I’m as happy as any mom that he’s finally realizing his potential.

But when Vinnie pretends to go to nursery, Harleigh says to me, “You should make him go to school – that’s what you did to me.” It is absolutely heartbreaking.

I don’t think he will forget what happened and it’s a lot to ask a child to forgive you for it.

Many do not know that when a child with special needs does not show up for school, it is recorded as an unauthorized absence.

He spent weeks in his bedroom during the first lockdown and suffered from OCD washing his hands seeing the slogan Stay At Home, Save Lives everywhere he looked.

Harleigh is thriving now that he is taking part in an out-of-school education program, which provided specialist tuition and mentoring from February.

So, together with the charity Square Peg, we are calling for changes to ensure that families are not criminalized for having children with disabilities or special needs. Our campaign calls for an end to current truancy laws, which leave it up to local authorities to fine parents for absenteeism.

We also want a mental health ‘absent code’ to help educators consider children’s health when deciding whether to sleep or not – all as part of an approach ” support and not sanction”.

Nearly 100,000 people have backed our petition, so please add your name for the government to think again.

Maddie Roberts has now teamed up with another mother, Susan Liverman, to petition against the Schools Bill.

Anyone can sign the petition by searching for “Maddie Roberts” on the change.org website

Parents can find resources and support at notfineinschool.co.uk and @teamsquarepeg on Twitter

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