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Tuesday 10 May 2022

The impact being excluded from school had on my childhood

My name is Susannah. One day when I was six, I went to school and never really went back. I was never formally excluded; that would have looked bad for Ofsted. Instead, I’d had several unrecorded fixed period exclusions, all related to my disability. Alongside my autism, I have an avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) and sensory issues.  

At school I loved the other children, the toys, the books, the uniform, and a feeling of belonging. I felt like the other children and their parents did not like me. According to school, I was not disabled, I was just naughty.


Getting an autism diagnosis

My official autism diagnosis took eight and a half years from beginning to end. If CAMHS could not see or understand signs of autism, then how can we expect schools to? This first exclusion led to a house move where I had a “working diagnosis” of autism. It was from a paediatrician, but I needed to go through CAMHS. It did mean that I could go to the autism unit of a local primary school. I was ecstatic. I loved school. My mum felt that an autism unit would be the answer.  

This time my exclusions for autism meltdowns were official. I was seven years old and locked in a room while I had a meltdown. I was scared and trashed the place. I was never allowed back into a classroom. I was never expelled but was told that they couldn’t meet my needs anymore. I was diagnosed by a SEND worker at the local authority as having emotional and behavioural difficulties (EBD) and offered a place in a unit for children with EBD in a neighbouring local authority. I did not go because it would not have been right for me. 

I was seven and had been thrown out of two schools. The autism unit school lasted only two terms. Some of the interventions were great and I had my own den to go to when things got too much for me. The downside to this is that I still find it difficult to know how I’m feeling so I couldn’t always make it to the den. Most of the interventions were behavioural, for example, star charts and the like. My first school thought I could be cured by star charts so I’m sad to see that trained experts in the autism field upheld this approach.


Being excluded from secondary school

I only ever did two terms of secondary school. I ran off after being bullied and was excluded for a term. I struggled when I went back. People asked questions about where I’d been for so long. I couldn’t cope, I exploded. They said I needed specialist school, but I have no learning difficulties. I fall between two worlds. 

Being taught by my mother was claustrophobic. I missed other children and adults, but she believed in me. She discovered I was good at sciences, computing, and French. I have a mainstream college place in September to follow my passion for esports and I plan to go to university. My future is bright, but why were my early experiences of school so hurtful?


About the author  

Susannah is a 16-year-old autistic teenager from Cheshire but originally from Manchester. She enjoys esports, gaming and live music.


Visit our information and resources on school exclusions and your rights.