‘The fight we’ve had to go through is just ridicu­lous’

Fam­ily’s frus­tra­tion over trans­port for autis­tic son

East Kilbride News - - NEWS - Jonathan Ged­des

The par­ents of an autis­tic East Kil­bride school­boy have blasted South La­nark­shire Coun­cil over what they claim is a suc­ces­sion of road­blocks in the pro­vi­sion of ap­pro­pri­ate school trans­port for their son.

Ron­nie and Sharon Par­rott say they’ve been in a bat­tle with coun­cil chiefs for three years re­gard­ing 14-year-old Jak’s ed­u­ca­tion.

Jak is in third year at Dun­can­rig Sec­ondary but the lo­cal au­thor­ity will only pro­vide “priv­i­leged place” trans­port for the 16-mile round trip to school from his King’s Park home be­cause it had ini­tially of­fered him a place at Cathkin High – de­spite med­i­cal advice that Jak’s needs would be bet­ter met at Dun­can­rig.

That means he must travel to an­other child’s house and wait out­side to be picked up, and they must ap­ply for the place each year – with no guar­an­tees it will be pro­vided.

Jak’s par­ents have been left ex­as­per­ated by the sit­u­a­tion, which saw Jak ini­tially as­signed to an East Kil­bride pri­mary school, then switched to a Ruther­glen sec­ondary – where he wouldn’t have known any other pupils.

The cou­ple say the coun­cil re­fused to ac­knowl­edge let­ters from Jak’s doc­tors and speech ther­a­pists sug­gest­ing Dun­can­rig would be a bet­ter op­tion for him.

Mr Par­rott told our sis­ter pa­per, the Ruther­glen Re­former: “It’s a con­stant stress and anx­i­ety.

“The fight we’ve had to go through just to get to this point is ridicu­lous.

“We have let­ters from doc­tors say­ing that Jak should be at Dun­can­rig. The coun­cil has gone against ev­ery per­son as­so­ci­ated with Jak’s de­vel­op­ment.”

Jak was di­ag­nosed with autism at the age of just two. He is also dyslexic and has hear­ing dif­fi­cul­ties in one ear.

His fam­ily moved to Ruther­glen when he was start­ing pri­mary two, and the coun­cil of­fered him a place at Crosshouse Pri­mary in Green­hills – which in­cluded trans­porta­tion – and he at­tended there for the rest of his pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion.

When it came time to tran­si­tion to sec­ondary school, Jak and his fam­ily were keen for him to join other mem­bers of his pri­mary class at Dun­can­rig, but were told he should go to Cathkin in­stead.

Mr Par­rott said: “Struc­ture is very im­por­tant to Jak. Dun­can­rig seemed the best op­tion to us.”

The fam­ily had to get a plac­ing re­quest to en­sure Jak could get into Dun­can­rig – a move that meant they were not el­i­gi­ble for trans­port to and from the school.

Mr Par­rott ex­plained: “We had to do what was best for Jak, and he was de­ter­mined about go­ing to Dun­can­rig, so he got a place that way – but then the is­sue with the trans­port came up. We met the coun­cil about this and they re­fused to lis­ten.

“Yes, we put the plac­ing re­quest in – but the views of us, of Jak, of the health pro­fes­sion­als that knew him, was that Dun­can­rig would be bet­ter for him. It was the ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ment that placed him in Crosshouse to be­gin with, rather than at Cathkin Pri­mary – which was never men­tioned – but if he’d been there to start then tran­si­tion­ing to sec­ondary there would have made sense.

“Chil­dren like Jak don’t have the lux­ury of go­ing to any main­stream school, they have to find some­where that suits him best.”

Even­tu­ally he was of­fered a “priv­i­leged place”, which meant he could get a taxi to and from school, as long as there was an ex­tra seat in the ve­hi­cle and he could be col­lected from an­other child’s home. In first year that was pos­si­ble as an­other pupil Jak knew at­tended Dun­can­rig – and lived nearby.

Mr Par­rott added: “You have to sit out­side some­one else’s house twice a day. For a child with ad­di­tional sup­port needs that seems all wrong.

“There are too many risks for him to get a bus there. We don’t know what to do next.”

A doc­tor’s let­ter seen by the Re­former sup­ports Jak’s par­ents’ views.

The let­ter, sent to the lo­cal au­thor­ity, states that: “It would ap­pear that ev­ery year Jak and his fam­ily have to go through a very stress­ful process in which his trans­port ar­range­ments for school are re­viewed.

“I am of the opin­ion that Jak’s need for trans­port to school will not change dur­ing his fu­ture years at school. In the ad­di­tion to this, the process by which this is re­viewed year on year is caus­ing Jak and his par­ents un­due stress and anx­i­ety.”

The let­ter states Dun­can­rig as be­ing the best school suit­able “to meet Jak’s needs”.

A coun­cil spokesman said: “I can con­firm that as in pre­vi­ous years we are able to pro­vide a priv­i­leged place on school trans­port.

“ASN al­lo­ca­tions are not de­ter­mined on a lo­cal catch­ment ba­sis. This is to en­sure that chil­dren with ASN can be of­fered place­ments across the au­thor­ity area that best meets their needs.

“Part of the con­sid­er­a­tion when mak­ing this rec­om­men­da­tion is to try to place the child as close as pos­si­ble to their lo­cal com­mu­nity.”

Chal­leng­ing times Jak Par­rott with dad Ron­nie out­side Dun­can­rig Sec­ondary

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