Education, SEND, Autism, ADHD, hidden disability, Suzy Rowland, Events, Happy in School

Autism Conference The Rose Theatre

It’s always a pleasure to share the aims and passion of the #happyinschool project to parents. Being the parent of a child or children with autism or ADHD can be fraught, relentless; you can lose sight of yourself and your power in the rolling procession of appointments, teacher meetings and assessments.

For every assertive parent who sticks two fingers up at the medical and educational establishment, many more feel guilt, shame, tiredness, anger and confusion, often not knowing what to do next. When you work full-time, it’s can be a strain to commit fully to your job, whilst meeting your parental obligations. And it’s not just attending the meetings, and digesting all of the information, it’s about all of the decisions you need to make. Decisions that could affect your child or young person’s life forever. I’ve been there AND got the tee-shirt. Literally.

#happyinschool ready to roll at the Rose Theatre
#happyinschool information & emPOWerment sessions for parents and educators, enabling children with autism and ADHD to be #happyinschool

It was great to see some familiar faces and meet quite a few new ones at the Express CIC Autism conference.  The gallery space at Rose Theatre was light and airy, it was great to see so many families. I look forward to seeing more of you at the forthcoming #happyinschool sessions. The aim is to cover the big issues, breaking them into manageable chunks. Dicing up the information that’s useful and relevant to you, making it easier for you to use practically as you work with the educationalists and other professionals to support your child. It’s fun, emotional, interactive but the best bit is this: we do it together, supporting each other as we go.

Express Autism Conference – full house for #happyinschool session

I’d like to leave you with a few motivational words:

“Empowered we all move forward in knowledge.”

© Suzy Rowland

Education, SEND, Autism, ADHD, hidden disability, Suzy Rowland

happyinschool loves the ‘i’ word (inclusion)

One of the many things that inspires me, is the sheer breadth and depth of educational information available to research, analyse, absorb, and form an opinion on. In particular inclusivity in education. Even those two words, ‘inclusive & education’ can create a flurry of differing opinions.

Some educationalists and parents think, for different reasons, that inclusive education is doomed to fail. I’ve met some! For others, the reality of inclusive education is more nuanced: does inclusion mean children with SEND in a mainstream school with additional support in the classroom, or playground, or children with SEND taught in a unit attached to mainstream school? Naturally, your opinion will be flavoured by how successful your experience of inclusion has been.

Like most big education issues, the debate needn’t be polarising, a myriad of factors influence the success of an inclusive educational environment: the culture of the school, the leadership, the size of the school and its budget, the nature of the disabilities, even the built environment of the place of learning. The needs of the individual child are naturally at the heart of the debate. If a child prefers to be educated at home or in a unit away from their peers rather than in the classroom, their desire for separateness to enable them to learn, is key to the success of inclusion. Needs are not homogenous, they can be as complex as the individual child or startlingly simple accommodations, once they are understood.

Inclusion visual
happyinschool loves the ‘i’ word

In a fair and just society, all children should have access to a varied educational experience, one that will enable them to learn and eventually become independent beings. A reasonably wealthy state should consider the financial support of its vulnerable citizens as the ultimate charitable and socially responsible act. This does not preclude generous individuals or families contributing their own means towards educating society’s most vulnerable members.

If inclusion helps to flatten out the educational, and in many cases, social disadvantage that exists for many children and young people with disabilities, long may the discussions continue – hopefully in many shades of orange (the colour of determination, joy and creativity:)

So, what does the ‘i’ word mean to me? Individuality/ Independent/Ideas/Ingenuity/Intrigue/Insight…. you get me?

© Suzy Rowland

Education, SEND, Autism, ADHD, hidden disability, Suzy Rowland, Happy in School

Children with SEND are vulnerable to school exclusion


happyinschool project

Statistics show that children with special educational needs account for almost half of all exclusions in schools. Or to put it another way, children with S.E.N.D. are six times more likely to be excluded.

Guidelines in the S.E.N.D Code of practice and ultimately the Equality Act 2010 are designed to provide equality of opportunity and prevent children with disabilities from being discriminated against in the classroom. It’s a large and complex area which is why we are keen to share our experience to empower other parents to work collaboratively with schools or early years settings when things are going wrong.

Does your child:

*Constantly get into trouble at school/playgroup or disrupt lessons?
*Appear anxious or emotional about going to school?
*Repeatedly get excluded?
*Have an Education, Health Care plan (EHCP)?
*Have an undiagnosed mental health issue or learning difficulty?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’ the H.I.S. Project can help. A six-week programme, delivered through a series of interactive and dynamic workshops, the H.I.S. Project will provide you or your organisation with practical skills and knowledge you can put into practice immediately with the children in your care.

If you are interested in finding out more OR would like to register your interest, please get in touch using the CONTACT form.


© Suzy Rowland

Education, SEND, Autism, ADHD, hidden disability, Suzy Rowland

Use of medicines to treat autism

Children with autism and intellectual disability are being prescribed medication that has been formulated to treat psychotic conditions like schizophrenia. See link below to an article published in The Conversation below.

Many careers ago, I worked in the pharmaceutical industry and discovered it’s not uncommon for medicines to be prescribed to treat conditions other than the they one were initially developed for. For example, it was discovered that certain drugs designed to treat heart and vascular conditions, had the interesting side effect of increasing libido. Enter stage right the little blue diamond tablet and the rest, as they say, is history!

When drugs come to market, they have usually been years in research and development followed by extensive testing. Once the medicine is deemed safe, it is published in the British National Formulary (BNF) which catalogues all drug formulations, indications (uses) and recommended dosages. The BNF a great tool for prescribing professionals and can be seen as a best practice guide.

boy child clouds kid
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on

So, in theory, prescribing ‘off-label’ is not a bad thing per se, but my cautionary note would be for parents to ask the following four questions, if they are not given this information in a consultation:

  1. What class of medication your child is being given (e.g. antidepressant, antipsychotic, stimulant?)
  2. How does it work?
  3. How will be help my child? Or what symptom is it being prescribed for?
  4. What sort of side effects might there be?

I don’t think being rigidly anti-medication for these complex brain conditions or mental health illnesses is necessarily helpful. But as parents, we owe it to our children to be well-informed and clear about the treatment regime and its possible impact. It is also vital to share information about how your child might react in any given circumstance, particularly if there is anxiety, oppositional behaviour or mutism in the mix. A skilled and compassionate physician will surely listen to your concerns and provide any reassurances you may need.

[There are some instances where autistic children are given medication without direct parental consent, if the child is in the care of the local authority for example or in a specialist school. This can be challenging and where possible, it’s a good idea to draw up a contract concerning ongoing and emergency medication use, which both parties agree to in writing.]


© Suzy Rowland