Devon

Autism awareness: 'Better teacher training needed'

Robbie with anxiety
Image caption Robbie's film discusses issues around the way his autism has been handled at his school

The mum of an autistic 11-year-old has called for better teacher training, saying her son was regularly singled out for displaying symptoms in class.

Robbie, from Plymouth in Devon, has made a YouTube animation in which he describes being bullied by pupils.

He also said teachers had disciplined him for uncontrollable fidgeting, a symptom of his autism.

Child Autism UK said there was "a lack of understanding and knowledge amongst some teachers in some schools".

Robbie has been taught in a building away from other students and is due to move to a new school next term because of the way he has been treated.

'Singled out'

His mother, Jenny, said: "It's not just Robbie - it seems this is happening in lots of schools with autistic kids. He wants to raise awareness of the fact this is happening.

"There is not enough training for teachers, and there seems to be a social norm to pick on autistic kids.

"On the whole we have been let down by the school.

"One teacher has been banned from teaching him because he would single him out in the middle of the class. It says in his notes that if he is fidgeting they are not supposed to highlight it as it makes it worse."

Image caption The school where Robbie is a pupil intends to show his film in an assembly when he has left

The school said it was supportive of Robbie's "worthy and very necessary campaign to raise the awareness of autism to a wide audience".

The statement continued: "All schools are committed to their well-publicised inclusive values, however, few schools can argue that in reality this inclusive philosophy permeates to every student and every parent. Education is certainly the key."

It said the school intended to show Robbie's film to staff and students to "generate much positive discussion" and "to deepen our holistic understanding of autism".

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Mandy Williams, CEO of Child Autism UK, said: "Teachers sometimes view the behaviour of children with autism against the standards set for their typically-developing peers."

She said "children with autism can achieve academically" and teachers did not always recognise the condition.

Mary Bousted, from the National Education Union, said: "It can be easy to miss that children's behaviour is linked to autism."

She said teachers had told the union they needed more background information about students.

She suggested a more "flexible curriculum" and more support for pupils with special educational needs was needed.

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