Edinburgh parents of autistic boy fear son 'won't cope' in mainstream school

An Edinburgh mum says she is terrified her autistic son 'won't cope' while attending mainstream school.

Lisa Evans, 32, should be excited for her four-year-old son, Richard, to reach the milestone of starting primary school in August, however, she has already deferred his entry for a year over fears he "isn't ready".

Richard is autistic and was diagnosed in June 2023, meaning it is difficult for him to cope and understand certain environments. At moments, it is hard for him to socialise with new people and be in specific situations, causing "stress and worry" for his parents, Lisa and Andrew.

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Lisa fears that her son may not be able to cope in a mainstream school and believes that there isn't enough support for parents of children with additional support needs. Speaking to Edinburgh Live, she said it can be "isolating" and that her family worry about the financial impacts of it at all as well.

The City of Edinburgh Council have since said that they are "fully committed" in ensuring parents of children with additional support needs receive the " best possible" support.

Lisa, who works as a nurse for the NHS, said: "My wee boy is four and he got a diagnosis last year but we knew quite early on that he was autistic but none of the professionals said it out loud to us for quite some time.

"My husband and I knew deep down that it was the case and it sent us to a place of feeling lonely. Although we have loads of friends and family around us, nobody understands the journey that we are embarking on as a family and as parents and it can be really isolating.

"We just feel like there is no support there. We got the diagnosis on June 17 last year and were handed a piece of paper of places that could potentially offer support. But at the time, we felt like there wasn't anything that would benefit us at that stage of life because Richard was only three.

"We were being offered support for kids at school and were advised that we could be put on a waiting list for clubs and organisations that could help us, but it was so worrying not knowing what help was there for our family at that time.

"I know Richard needs one on one support. You can’t take anything for granted being a mum of a child with additional support needs, you just have to sit and watch and see what happens."

The parents from Stenhouse fear that because their son doesn't interact with people, that he will struggle when he finally goes to mainstream school. Lisa was led to start anti-anxiety medication in December, 2023, after the "stress and worry" became too much for her.

She said: "As a family you should look forward to your kids first day of school but I am just constantly worrying.

"With Richard in mainstream nursery right now, he is doing so well. They have put loads of support in place for him and everything works currently so it's so scary to think of him having different teachers and routines.

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"I know Richard is going to need that one to one support and I had to defer him for another year because he wasn't ready. I just feel like support just doesn't seem to be a priority for the council.

"In December I ended up on anti-anxiety medication as I had total burnout. I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, my mind was racing, worrying about the future and how my wee boy is going to cope with life and thinking about whether I was doing everything right as a parent.

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"If there is respite available, I don’t know where it is. I have heard from other parents who have tried contacting the social work department for support but everything was such a fight."

The City of Edinburgh Council have said that support for parents with additional support needs is a "priority" for the council.

Cllr Joan Griffiths, Education, Children and Families Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “Providing the resources for children with additional support needs is a priority for the Council and we’re fully committed to ensuring they receive the best possible support which includes our special schools.

“In common with the rest of the country, additional support needs are rising across Edinburgh. We keep these levels of need and our models of provision under review, to ensure we can continue to provide quality support for all.”

Lisa has since set up a Facebook group for parents of children with additional support needs which you can access here.