Shaun Berrigan with daughter Imogen.
Shaun Berrigan with daughter Imogen.

OPINION: Pauline's right, autistic kids need own schools

PAULINE Hanson is on the right track with the autism debate.

I have an autistic daughter named Imogen and as a father of four girls, I agree with Hanson's comments that children with autism spectrum disorder should be removed from mainstream classrooms.

Children with autism have behavioural issues that in order to address, takes up a lot of their parents' time, while taking attention away from their other children. So you can imagine what it must be like for teachers who have to dedicate extra time away from their classroom of neurotypical kids.

School teachers shouldn't have to deal with these issues and are not equipped with the skills set to help them. Autistic children learn differently and they require professional help, behavioural therapists and child psychologists. This is indisputable fact.

The early years are most important with these kids to give them the best chance of an independent life and to contribute to society.

We have to look to other countries to see how they ae handling the increase in autistic kids. What we need is specifically designed school programs to cater to the needs of autistic children as they are usually too smart to prosper in our current special school systems. As things are currently, their best option is sadly these special schools, but that's if you can get them enrolled there. We have to do better by them.

This country needs to invest money into the futures of our autistic children now so we won't be pouring dollars into carers to assist them for the rest of their lives.

The difficult thing with understanding autistic kids is they are all different. In mainstream schools it's only a matter of time before they're bullied and picked on.

With our country's soaring suicide rates and rising numbers of autistic diagnoses, some things really do need to change.

The way Hanson presented her argument may have upset people but at least she has put this issue into the news agenda and given parents like me an opportunity to share what it's really like.

Children in schools don't need extra distractions, their young minds are a distraction enough and teachers have enough trouble with neurotypical kids let alone those with social impairment, behavioural issues and speech issues.

We need autistic schools specialising in programs to teach kid in a safe environment when they are young and when they will most benefit. If we get it right now, their lives will be immeasurably better as they get older.

Look to America, they are so far ahead of us in this area. They have autism schools.

I have exhausted tens of thousands of dollars trying to help my daughter but our government needs to get serious about really helping these kids.

If we don't start getting adequate systems in place, neurotypical kids will suffer and autistic kids won't get the chances they deserve to live independent lives. Getting this right won't only take some pressure off parents and their siblings, it will help society as a whole.

Shaun Berrigan is an Australian former professional rugby league footballer and a proud father of four girls.

News Corp Australia

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