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  • Writer's pictureThe Autistic Realm Australia Inc.

Have Your Say: it is school CAN'T - not school refusal

Before we go any further, let's clear something up. We are not talking about bunking off or wagging school. It might be referred to as "school refusal," but that is dead wrong. When a child struggles to go to school it is because they CANT. TARA uses the term School Can't for this reason. Refusing is code for a child being... stubborn, disobedient, manipulative.
The term School Can't tells it like it is - if they COULD go, they WOULD. All behaviour is information. For some reason these children don't feel safe at school. Now there is a federal inquiry to examine School Cant.

"Rise in number of struggling kids refusing to go to school..." "School refusal almost triples since COVID-19 lockdowns, say parents and expert..." "My 13-year-old daughter refused to go to school after lockdown ended..."

Suddenly everyone is worried about children not going to school. To be precise, they're worried because children are refusing to go to school. They seem to think that it is a new problem; another one caused by COVID.

Really? Autistic children have demonstrating School Can't children for years... decades! Parents have been trying to get support for all that time and it is hit and miss at best, often non-existent, and sometimes down right cruel to our children. The standard approach is to demand compliance compliance.

Autistics are often like the canary in the coal mine. That old saying means "Something or someone who, due to sensitivity to their surroundings, acts as an indicator and early warning of possible adverse conditions or danger."* Now that neurotypical children are doing School Can't it, it gets attention. The states and federal government have decided that it is time to look at School Can't.

This is our chance to be heard.

The Senate Education and Employment References Committee of the Australian Federal Parliament has set up an inquiry into "school refusal" (School Can't) since COVID.

The Federal Government has set out the questions and issues that they think are important in the Inquiry's Terms of Reference. You can read them here:

The Autistic Realm Australia Inc (TARA) is preparing a submission to the Inquiry. We would like to collect some information to make sure that

  • School Can't is fully understood by the Inquiry and

  • the effects on Autistic children and their families are heard

  • educate that there are better ways to support children than the current approaches.

We need to make it clear that School Can't may have been made worse by COVID, but it is a much longer- standing issue for Autistic children and current responses are failing them. WE know why. There are answers and solutions, and you can tell us yours. Please fill out out survey.The link is below. You can respond with as much detail as you'd like. Tell your story. Talk about the effect School Cant has had on your child, the family. On relationships as well as learning. On the effects on your employment and financial circumstances. Tell us what caused School Can't for your family. What made it worse or helped? Who made it better or worse? What solutions did you find? Is your child still struggling? Or, just be brief and stick to the facts the survey is designed to collect.

Something to think about before you look at the survey. One of the people who tested the survey knew their child had had periods of School Can't. They thought they knew what it looked like for that child. Turns out they didn't. After reading the survey they realised that their child had had School Can't for EVERY week of EVERY term of EVERY year of school. That was because the child WANTED to go but was tired, and just.. couldn't... and there were many, many reasons to be tired. Keep that in mind. ANY information will add to TARA's School Can't story. Our story. We know there are solutions and ways forward and TARA is committed to creating the understanding that will lead to better school experiences for ALL children, not just Autistic ones. Link to the TARA survey:


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