Missing The Mark

by Eliza Fricker

A podcast about how the school system is failing autistic children

Everyone goes to school – but what happens when your child struggles to go? Often as a parent there is a sense that something more is going on causing the distress. A hard-won diagnosis of autism promises to bring the understanding and support families need. Instead, many feel like they are dropped off a cliff edge, and trauma grows in it wake.

In this powerful four-part podcast, Eliza Fricker shares her experience, and that of others, to reveal the difficult process of getting an autism diagnosis, what this means in our current education system, and asks, can we find a better way?

With the help of leading autism experts Eliza explores the pressure to “fix” children to fit in and how many children are masking their true self to survive at school. She looks at alternative ways to educate children who don’t thrive in the mainstream model. And in light of the growing mental health crisis among young people, asks how far the UK school system is out of date and in need of reform. Are schools failing not just autistic children, but everyone? 

My child wasn't broken, they didn't need to be fixed. Why was the onus on my child to fit the system – and not the system, to fit my child?” 

Currently almost two million children are regularly absent from school. Many of these will have special needs – making going to school a stressful and distressing experience. But in a system that prizes attendance over wellbeing, autistic children are forced into an environment that makes them unwell. Parents who want to safeguard their children are fined for non-attendance, and face an expensive uphill struggle to find alternative ways to educate their children. Yet there are other ways, including schools that focus on strength-based and autonomous learning. It’s in a setting like this that Eliza has seen her child heal and thrive.

How many children are being disabled by the system, not their disability?                  


Contributor quotes: 

The implication is that there's a gold standard human being that everybody's measured up against and if youre perceived to have flaws then you're broken in some way and you need to be fixed. But we can reframe those weaknesses” and see them as strengths. Which is rarely done with autistic children.” Kieran Rose, autistic consultant and trainer. 

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