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More children with autism being kept out of school


More children with autism being kept out of school

At least 4,000 children with autism are not currently attending school. That is 16 percent of all Dutch children between the ages of 12 and 18 with autism, and a “significant increase” compared to 2021 when 10 percent were kept at home, Trouw reports based on figures from the Dutch Association for Autism (NVA). The survey didn’t look into the reason for the increase, but the NVA thinks the teacher shortage and schools not being accommodating enough play a role.

“It may be related to the teacher shortage,” Julie Wevers of the NVA told Trouw. “Many changing teachers in the classroom is very difficult for children with autism.” But parents also said that regular schools do not do enough to meet the needs of autistic children. “Children often stay at home because they get a kind of burnout at school,” Wevers said. “They really can’t do it anymore.”

Children with autism need more time to switch between subjects, for example. They’re often more sensitive to stimuli, so the bright and noisy canteen may be a challenge. “These children need someone to ask if they want a permanent hook on the coat rack or if they are bothered by the sunlight,” Wevers said.

Parents expressed concerns about their children being unable to attend school. “He has no real friends, no hobbies. Eats unhealthy and has also gained a lot of weight,” one parent wrote. Many mentioned their children being more depressed and lonely since they stopped attending school. “My child spent whole days in the room in the dark. She deteriorated more and more,” one said.

It also impacts the rest of the family. In 60 percent of cases, one of the parents was forced to work less or quit in order to provide the extra care their child needs now that they aren’t in school anymore.

According to Wevers, schools are often too quick to assume that a child with autism can’t handle the curriculum due to atypical behavior. “Teachers then think that a special school is more suitable, while with a few adjustments, things can often go well at a regular school,” she said. “Teachers often only look at behavior and not at its cause, such as too many stimuli or unclear communication.”

The interest group would like schools to create a better environment for children with autism, such as more quiet areas. The NVA also wants the government to pay more attention to children with autism, as it is now doing for gifted children.

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