Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Why I Fought for My Autistic Boys; Forging Ahead at Primary: Thomas, Hector and Mino

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Why I Fought for My Autistic Boys; Forging Ahead at Primary: Thomas, Hector and Mino

Article excerpt

Byline: SARAH RICHARDSON

FOR Sarah Zeigle, the battle to secure the best education for her threeautistic sons has involved lengthy and costly legal fights with her localeducation authority, which have forced her family to remortgage their home,borrow from relatives and take in lodgers. Despite her work as anurse-turned-medical writer, Sarah, 46, and her husband Jonathan, 45, had noexperience of autism or education bureaucracy when her nonidentical twin boysThomas and Benjamin (Mino) were diagnosed with autism in 2002 aged just three.

"Mino had no language, just a strange hum, and Thomas had a few labels only,"she recalls. "Hector, who's now five, was normal until he was two when heregressed and lost nearly all his language.

"It's hard to quantify their severity but they would probably be labelled ashaving highfunctioning autism in that they don't have additional learningdifficulties on top of the autism. They are all severely language-delayed butcan talk short sentences and have 'functional' language. They can't do abstractconversation or follow a normal conversation but can express their needs andare beginning to 'chat' a bit more." The Zeigles, who live in East Sheen, tookthe London Borough of Richmond to a tribunal at a cost of [pounds sterling]10,000 per childbecause they disagreed with its view that, at this stage, they should attend aspecialist autistic nursery.

"We felt this environment would not provide enough hours of education andtherapy,"

she explains. "We also needed some mainstream role models for them." TheZeigles' choice was for the boys to attend a mainstream nursery and,subsequently, an inclusive mainstream primary school while having VB (verbalbehaviour) therapy, a form of ABA (applied behaviourial analysis)which

involves 35 hours a week of intensive oneto-one tuition, delivered bothat school and at home.

"The twins started VB within two months of diagnosis and within six weeksBenjamin had begun to try and form words," she recalls.

"At first we were paying this tuition ourselvesat a cost of [pounds sterling]25,000 per child a year. We took [the council] to a tribunal tochange their statements of special educational needs [so it would bear thiscost]. …

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