Inclusion. It sounded such a great idea. Instead of herding all the disabled kids into special schools, why not integrate them into the mainstream, let them learn alongside everybody else? Of course there is no reason at all why somebody in a wheelchair shouldn't be able to use an ordinary school. Nor should deaf or blind children be excluded; with proper adaptations, they too can be accommodated. So far, so good. The problems really began when this same principle was applied to children with what is euphemistically termed "challenging behaviour". Some of these were what we call EBD (emotional and behavioural difficulties), others were on the autistic spectrum.
A few words about the motivation for all this. As usual, it was money. Special schools are colossally expensive to run. Closing them down enabled local authorities to sell the sites to proper developers, always a smart move, and the children themselves can be "supported" in mainstream schools. Instead of highly paid specialised teachers, why not pay classroom assistants to follow them around and keep an eye on them? It's got to be cheaper! You can guy it all up as compassion for the less fortunate as well. Some people even described this as the last civil rights movement, giving disabled children the same rights as everybody else. How caring is that?
How does all this affect home education? In several ways. Firstly, because autistic children no longer had the special provision that they needed. Often, they were just chucked into ordinary classrooms and expected to get on with it like the other kids. With luck, a speech therapist might pop by once a week and perhaps you can pay the dinner lady for a couple of extra hours at playtime to keep a watch upon the kid and see that she doesn't get mocked or picked on too much. This actually happens, dinner ladies being given extra hours to "support" autistic children. Little wonder that quite a few parents withdraw their kids and decide that they are better off at home.
Another problem is that if you have an EBD child rampaging round the classroom, refusing to sit down, maybe grabbing other children's work and tearing it up, then you won't have so much time to spend on the rest of the class. The more capable ones might just be able to get on with their work despite the disruption, but what about those children who find it hard to cope at the best of times? Hey, what if some of those children have special needs of their own; Aspergers, dyslexia, mild learning difficulties an so on. Well of course if you are the teacher, who are you going to focus your attentions on, the kid charging around shouting and having a tantrum or the quiet child sitting in the corner struggling desperately to understand the work? No contest really.
The parents of some of those neglected children also choose to de-register their children from school and who can blame them? I am bound to say that if my daughter had had autistic features or been any less robust than the average child, I would have thought very carefully before sending her to an ordinary school. It is not hard really to understand why there seems to be a higher proportion of children with special educational needs among home educated children. The wonder of it is that so many parents still put up with the system as it currently operates.