College students with Autism Left “Excessive and Dry” Questioning The place They will Go to Faculty within the Fall
UPDATE: After much deliberation, Devin and Oisin were allowed to stay at Cedar Lodge for another year.
Education is important to all students, but it can be especially important for students with autism who need consistency in their class schedules and the dedication of their teachers to be successful in a classroom setting. But it seems that some students on the autism spectrum are left behind as the school system struggles to find a suitable place for them.
Some autism students currently attending Cedar Lodge in north Belfast, Ireland are wondering where to go to school this fall. It seems that this problem is partly due to the vacancy of a key position in the Education Authority (EA) for an educational transition coordinator since March 2020.
Photo: Adobe Stock / Tom Wang
The position of educational transition coordinator is intended to support pupils with special educational needs and their parents in planning their future in terms of education and vocational training. There are two such positions in the Education Office, but one of them has been vacant for more than a year. Since no one can fill this position, students with autism and special needs have fallen through the cracks.
Heather North’s 16 year old son, Devin, will complete Cedar Lodge on June 18th.
“On that day, he’s supposed to give his colleagues a presentation on where he’s going and what he’s going to do,” says Heather. “He has nothing to say.”
After that, he did not know where to continue his education, and the fear of the unknown had taken its toll on his mental state.
Photo: Adobe Stock / motortion
“I can feel the fear mounting, I can see his mood becoming a lot less stable. I can see his mental health suffer, ”she says. “His self-image is going down a lot because of all the insecurity, and it has been since January, so it’s been six months since people said we didn’t know.”
Despite his autism, Devin has always done well academically. He was sent to a regular elementary school but was eventually removed after suffering from anxiety and bullying there.
“We moved to Cedar Lodge for its first year after elementary school, and Cedar Lodge did well because it was a normal education but in an environment for children with Devin’s problems,” says Heather.
Photo: Adobe Stock / Brian
Devin is happy at his new school and has not experienced any bullying, but he has to move on now that he is almost 17 years old.
Now, says his mother, he has been kept waiting “on the heights” to see if any schools in the area will accept him, and he is getting no help from the education authorities.
“He was turned down by a regular school,” she says. “There are discussions with someone else, but we are in the eleventh hour and it doesn’t look like that is going to happen.”
And Devin isn’t the only student going through this “soul-destroying” wait. Jackie Cosgrove’s son Oisin is also ready to leave the Cedar Lodge but has nowhere else to go.
Photo: Adobe Stock / JackF
“He’s pretty academically gifted, he’s intelligent, he’s eloquent, he has a crisp sense of humor. He’s really funny, ”says Jackie. “He’s a great boy and he deserves every chance he can but we have to fight for it.”
Jackie says about five other young people at the school are in the same position and that has undermined their confidence and wasted their brilliant minds.
“These kids are caught between a rock and a hard place,” she says. “Our children want to continue their education […] The EA has a duty of care to enable him to train. “
In the interests of these great students, we hope that a suitable place will be found for them soon.