Saturday, March 24, 2007

Tony Blair Agrees to Meet with Autism Advocates

British Prime Minister Tony Blair (photo at left) said on March 21 that he would agree to meet with the leaders of the National Autistic Society to discuss the group's campaign to improve education programs for children in the U.K with autism spectrum disorders.

The statement came during the Prime Minister's Question Time, when the head of the British government stands in the House of Commons in Parliament and answers members' queries. Among questions about the upcoming London Olympics, international treaties, ambulance services and efficient energy use came this exchange with Conservative Party member Lee Scott of London:

Mr. Lee Scott: Will the Prime Minister join me in supporting the National Autistic Society’s campaign to “make schools make sense”, and will he agree to meet me and a leading campaigner, Ivan Corea from my constituency, to discuss the inadequacies of services across the country?

The Prime Minister: I do not know enough about the details of that particular campaign to give an endorsement to it, but I am very happy to meet the honorable Gentleman and the campaign to discuss it. Autism is a very serious issue that has to be taken seriously by our medical services and schools.

You can see a copy of the official House of Commons transcript by clicking here.

The National Autistic Society is the London-based group that is distributing a video produced by researchers at Cambridge University to helps 30,000 British kids with autism spectrum disorders recognize emotions. (See more about that project here.) The "Make School Make Sense" campaign has three goals:

* The right school for every child with autism. The campaign calls on the government to make more school programs available to children with autism spectrum disorders so each "has local access to a diverse range of mainstream and specialist educational provision, including autism-specific resource bases attached to mainstream schools, special schools and specialist outreach support."

* Autism-related training for every teacher. The National Autistic Society cites estimates that close to one percent of British children have an autism spectrum disorder -- and yet autism-related teacher training is not a requirement in the country. The campaign calls for an awareness program for teachers in the U.K., to give them "practical information, ideas and support on how best to support the differing needs of children with autism." It also calls for training for special education needs coordinators.

* The sharing of best educational practices across British schools. The group cites "a great deal of disparity" across the U.K. in the quality of education programs for kids on the autism spectrum. The campaign calls for "the right approach in every school" to elevate the quality of services in districts that are now lacking. "Some parents have experienced overt discrimination because of their child's disability, which is unacceptable and illegal," the National Autistic Society reports. "Many parents highlight the struggle of fighting to get the support their child needs and the negative impact this has on their well-being and family life."

You can find out more the National Autistic Society's "Make Schools Make Sense" campaign by clicking here.

1 comment:

Maddy said...

If it comes to fruition, it might almost be worth considering going back!