Today is the first day of school for thousands of children… for Robin (4 years old), however, the door to class was not open. So his mom Karen is on her end. She has been looking for a school for her severely autistic son for a year and a half. “You have no idea how exhausting this is. I am completely exhausted mentally and physically.” Out of sheer desperation, I wrote to our newspaper.
Access to private education has been a pain point for some time. This week it turned out that there is no room in school for hundreds of children who need extra care. One of them is Robin (4), the severely autistic son of Karen de Hondt (35) of Middlekirk.
The young mother begins her story “I knew as soon as he was born that something was wrong with Robin.” “He was a crying baby and he was also very easily stimulated. They often called me at nursery because they didn’t know what to do with him. When he was two I tested him for all kinds of things. He always scored very good in terms of motor skills, but he He was not on the level of his peers mentally and communicatively.The diagnosis was Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with severe behavioral problems.From that moment on, I immediately put him on waiting lists for further help and guidance, in Oudenaarde, where we still lived at that time “.
During that difficult period, Karen also had to deal with a divorce. Because Robin suffered from lung problems and a lack of immunity to pneumococci at a young age, the young mother moved with her son to Middlekerke. His physical health has improved, but the problems have not gone away. “Robin’s emotions are so extreme. From sad to angry. Explosions as he destroys everything in his path. He is so big and strong for his age, I can hardly stop him physically. Outside the home, he runs constantly and doesn’t know social boundaries. He talks to everyone and calls every adult man.” my door. Daddy may be complicated, but there are years of waiting lists for treatment,” Karen sighs.
“You really have no idea how exhausting this is. I am completely exhausted mentally and physically”
Plus, he’s not yet toilet trained, despite my frantic efforts. Not only does he want to sleep, but because of his constant screaming, I hardly sleep a wink at night. Going to the supermarket is hell, you don’t want to know how crouched I look when he has another tantrum. that it motherfucker tactics, but he only calms down when I let him watch videos on my cell phone. Then I have a few minutes to go to the toilet, put clothes in the wash or take a very quick shower. He can’t go to relatives and the babysitter is impossible. I don’t have any social contact anymore, because I always have to be there for him and we don’t go out anymore, because it’s pointless. There are hardly any friendships and relationships in my life. You really have no idea how stressful this is. I am completely exhausted mentally and physically.”
Karen works full time in the customer service department of an airline, which has allowed her to happily work from home during the Corona crisis. This was necessary, because Robin could no longer go to the arboretum. After moving to West Flanders, Robin spent a year in a regular kindergarten, “but was eventually told that he was no longer welcome the following school year due to ‘too inconvenience.’ He doesn’t belong to mainstream education, I know. After much effort. I finally got the go-ahead from a pediatric neurologist to send him to special education. But there’s no place there,” she sighs.
This summer Robin managed to go to the CKG shelter in Ostend, but since September 1 there is no longer a place for him. For Karen, the situation gradually became hopeless. “At the dozens of schools I have already contacted, I always get the same answer: Nowhere. Right now, I’m at home with burnout and a virus that I can’t get rid of. I have to work and want to work again soon, but what if I can’t find a place? Robin yet?”
very social kid
Several agencies are looking for a school where Robin can get the care he needs, but things aren’t looking rosy. This also has a negative effect on the four-year-old. “Robin is very social and constantly asks if he can play with other kids. Over and over I have to say that’s not possible, with all the consequences. He would have grown up in a school where he could safely interact with his peers,” Karen says.
Out of sheer desperation, Karen wrote to Minister Ben Waits and the press, hoping that alarm bells would also ring at the policy level. “Not just for Robin, but for all the kids who are constantly being told they can’t go to school due to a lack of space. And to all the parents, because I’m sure I’d be a much better mom if I got some more rest. I’m really at my wits end.”
Schools that still have a place for Robin can contact our newspaper via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Minister Ben Waits: ‘We continue to look for additional places’
“Since the beginning of the government period, we have already created an additional 5,000 special education places,” said Education Minister Ben Waits (N-VA). “During the summer holidays, we kept looking for solutions, which means that we can now provide an additional 300 places compared to the end of June. So we are guaranteeing a significant increase in the number of places, but we have to realize that the demand for special education is growing faster. Moreover, We can’t always direct which schools districts accept the additional resources and additional options we offer.”
“For example, we have made it easier to start a school for children with autism spectrum disorder only, but we cannot force anyone to use this option. A parent looking for a place in West Flanders is not helped yet if additional places are added in another area. We continue. Look for additional places and schools that want to expand with Flemish support, because stories like those of Karen and Robin do not leave anyone untouched,” the minister said. (note)