This World Autism Awareness Day we wanted to shine a light on the complex and interconnected challenges that families with an Autistic child can face.
At School-Home Support, of the 455 children we currently work with, 31 have a confirmed Autism diagnosis. However, our practitioners know that there are many more children who are Autistic but are yet to receive a diagnosis, meaning their behaviour can often be misunderstood and they are not able to access the support they need to thrive at school and at home.
Through our expert family support practitioners, our approach ensures that parents are guided to identify the specific needs of their children and given access to the right support. By working with the whole family to overcome any barriers to a child’s education, we tackle the specific challenges that caring for an Autistic child can bring, alongside any other difficulties families may be facing.
Mina and Neha’s story
Mina is 4 years old and was referred to School-Home Support because she was persistently absent from school, often due to illness. Her attendance was just 63%. School-Home Support practitioner Ellen had the time to get to know Mina’s family and her older sister Neha, and understand the challenges they were facing at home, so that she could offer the support they needed to get Mina and Neha back into school, ready to learn.
What was the situation?
Due to Mina’s poor school attendance, her parents were at serious risk of a fine. Mina’s older sister Neha is autistic, and Mina’s mum was particularly worried about going out with the children and managing Neha’s additional needs. Mina’s mum told Ellen that she would often not leave the house with the children without her husband with her, and as he was often away, this had led to mum feeling very isolated. Mina and her family didn’t have a support system around them, which was increasing the pressure on mum.
On top of this, the family were struggling with severe damp in their house, and nothing was being done about it by the housing association. The school was not aware of the damp issue, and Mina’s parents did not know that the damp could be what was making their children feel poorly so often. Without this understanding, school had no explanation for why the children were absent from school so much.
The cost of living crisis was putting additional pressure on the family, and mum told Ellen that they were finding it very difficult to get by from month to month.
How did School-Home Support help?
Ellen first met with mum to hear from her about what was going on at home, and then visited the family at the house, which revealed the extent of the damp, as well as several broken windows and a broken shower. It was clear that the family’s housing issues were making it very difficult to keep the children safe and healthy. Ellen contacted the housing association and ensured that the jobs were scheduled in. During this process, Ellen supported mum to build confidence in liaising with the housing association, should any issues arise in the future.
Ellen was also able to support mum with her concerns about managing Neha’s behaviour, and in particular mum’s worries that they didn’t have enough space at home for her to let all of her energy out. This was especially important as mum didn’t feel it was safe for the children to be playing out in the garden as they would try to escape through the back gate. Ellen applied to the Family Fund to purchase some sensory toys that kept Neha entertained and allowed her to express herself safely.
Ellen made a referral for both parents to start attending a support group with Dimobi Children Disability Trust, to support mum to overcome her isolation and build more of a community around them, where they could develop connections and learn from other parents’ experiences.
In the first half of the term that Ellen started working with the family, the children’s attendance was as low as 54%. Since working with the children and the family, both Mina and Neha’s attendance has increased to 92% and their behaviour has improved both at school and at home.
“I have seen so much improvement and effort from the family to support their children coming into school. I have seen the family change as they now feel listened to and have that one to one support throughout the process. It has demonstrated to me that often it is not just one problem that a family is facing, but a multitude of issues that need looking at one at a time.” Ellen, School-Home Support practitioner