Coronavirus: Missing school 'ever so difficult' for girl with autism

By Rob Thomas
BBC News

Published
media captionKathryn Elsmore says her daughter Cerys loves being outside

A mother has said lockdown is badly affecting her teenage daughter - who has severe autism - and putting a heavy strain on her family.

Kathryn Elsmore, of Broughton, Flintshire, has been told Cerys, 13, is a priority for a lockdown school hub but she remains at home.

She said she felt "semi-abandoned".

Flintshire Council said it had to consider whether it could "safely offer suitable provision" for children on an individual basis.

Cerys has severe learning difficulties, severe autism, ADHD and she does not talk or understand words.

Ms Elsmore, a mother-of-three who is also trying to home-school Cerys' younger brother, said: "She has no sense of danger which is probably our biggest problem at the moment."

Before Covid-19, she would be picked up at 08:00 from Monday to Friday, and then returned home from her school after 16:00.

"I thought because the news was talking about vulnerable children having hubs - as well as key worker children - I thought she would have something from Monday to Friday," Ms Elsmore said.

"I didn't think that we would be struggling to look after her all day, every day."

She said Cerys did not understand why the family were indoors and she "doesn't respond well" to the kind of activities available in the house.

"She's much more an outdoor person, going on activities. She swims three times a week. She sometimes goes horse riding or ice skating," said Ms Elsmore.

"So, for her, it's ever so difficult being indoors and she's just bashing the windows, bashing the TV, climbing and leaping off things, so it's quite hard to keep her safe."

image captionSnap Cymru's chief executive Denise Inger said authorities were doing what they could during the pandemic

Denise Inger, chief executive of Snap Cymru, a campaign group for children with additional learning needs, said families across Wales were finding it "extremely difficult" with similar problems.

"The school day offers structure for the child and some normality for parents to go around their daily business.

"But now, during lockdown, without school, without day provision, it is extremely difficult,"she said.

Ms Inger said authorities were making "enormous efforts" to meet the needs of vulnerable children and those of key workers during lockdown but there was "a limit of what can be achieved".

"Although the government intention is right, there are difficulties in making provision for the most vulnerable of children," she said.

image captionKathryn Elsmore said the current situation has effected Cerys' siblings

Ms Elsmore said looking after Cerys was having an impact on the rest of the family, with her brother in Year 7 and her sister in college each having their own education to think about.

"Emotionally, physically - it's just exhausting," she said.

Flintshire council said it was providing a "broad range" of support to vulnerable children and those whose parents were critical workers.

It said education for vulnerable children, particularly those with disabilities, was being provided "mostly via remote channels", although some with specific needs were accessing on-site provision.

'Appropriate staffing levels'

"The school hubs are open to vulnerable children and education professionals are working closely with colleagues in social services, along with parents and carers to identify those who require access to this provision," it said in a statement.

"Each child is considered on an individual basis to ensure that the hub can safely offer suitable provision and that specific needs can be met, this includes consideration of appropriate staffing levels and identification of any PPE [personal protective equipment] which may be required.

"Schools are responding positively and flexibly to enable children to attend where this is deemed appropriate."

The council said it would respond "positively and proactively" to any future directives from the Welsh Government about broadening the range of provision for vulnerable children.

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