NSW: Hunter Valley family struggling to get support for ADHD, autistic student in the classroom

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Families with children on the spectrum are struggling to secure proper education more than ever, with calls for more urgent help before too many students fall behind.

Hunter Valley resident Cass Bell said her seven-year-old daughter Mackenzie Bell has been suspended from her primary school at least eight times for being “aggressive” since August last year.

“She will throw chairs. She will get cranky. She will try and barricade herself in a classroom,” she told A Current Affair on Tuesday.

The Year 2 student lives with autism and ADHD, meaning a regular classroom setting can be overstimulating her.

“When she is overwhelmed she needs space. She needs to be able to be left alone,” Ms Bell said.

“Unfortunately in a mainstream setting they don’t leave them alone and that makes her go off more.”

Ms Bell said the education department’s failure to cater to her daughter’s needs wasn’t unusual, with many mainstream schools not being

properly equipped to support different learning requirements.

Her claim comes after a recent Autism Awareness Australia survey found 35 per cent of families with children on the spectrum have been discouraged from enrolling in school or refused a spot in supported learning.

Ms Bell said she’s been trying to secure a place in a support class for her daughter that is designed for students with additional needs.

“Apparently there aren’t any spots,” she said.

“Apparently her application wasn’t strong enough.

“The department of education lady told the school to make the application stronger.

“When she had already had eight suspensions … like her application should be strong enough.”

“At this point my child and many other children are being denied an education because the education department and the government don’t want to put enough resources into helping them,” Cass said.

In a statement, The Department of Education told A Current Affair it was working closely with the Bell family to best support Mackenzie at school while also ensuring a safe learning environment for all students and staff at the school.