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Belfast mum's anger at as she fights to get autistic son back in school

By Cate Mcurry

Published 17/10/2016

Kelly Lawrey from Belfast
Kelly Lawrey from Belfast
Kelly Lawrey's son Scott

A Belfast woman has been fighting to get her autistic child back into education 10 months after he was removed from a mainstream school.

Kelly Lawrey said her teenage son is missing out and is like a "caged animal" because of ongoing delays in finding the 15-year-old a place at a special unit.

While Scott Tinsley's peers are a month into their GCSE year, the bright teenager spends most of his day alone in his bedroom without access to school work.

The former Belfast Boys' Model pupil was diagnosed with autism at the age of seven and, despite his difficulties, has always attended mainstream schools.

Kelly, from east Belfast, explained that problems began to arise last Christmas while he was a fourth-year pupil at Boys' Model where he had attended for over four years.

"Things were going really well for him until December last year," she said.

"His routine is key to him and after the school changed his classroom assistant and a few new teachers started, he struggled to adjust.

"He has always done well academically, his exam results were always in the 90s. He always achieved in school and never had a problem with it.

"But after the changes, he struggled and would walk out of the school during the day and not return."

The mum-of-one said that Scott became more frustrated, so she approached the school and asked whether they would consider allowing him to attend for a few hours every week.

Kelly said that after her offer was turned down, she received an email from the school to say he could not return until a review meeting took place.

"The email also said Scott was on a rolling 45-day suspension, so I then made a decision to move him into a non-mainstream school where he could avail of one-to-one assistance," she added.

"But I needed a statement of special needs, which is a formal document that details his learning difficulties and the help that he should be given."

Months passed and after a number of setbacks, the family did not receive the statement until August, meaning Ms Lawrey missed the application deadline to ensure he started at a special unit last month.

"It's now October and my son is suppose to be in fifth year - we can't even put a home tutor in place," she said.

"We have also contacted the Children's Commissioner who is helping us with this. The Education Authority just don't seem to care. It's an absolute nightmare and he's been referred to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) because being at home is not doing him any good. He's like a caged animal.

"He sits around watching YouTube. It's having a massive impact on his progress and it's setting him back."

A spokesman for the Education Authority said: "We do not comment on individual cases.

"However, when issues arise, the Education Authority works with the school, parents and other stakeholders to deliver the best possible outcomes for children and young people."

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