Parents are pulling their children from classrooms as a Government plan to support neurodiverse students in school fails to make an impact, advocates say.
And despite a national plan to address their needs, the Ministry of Education does not have any data on how many autistic or neurodiverse children are in schools.
Jess, who only wanted her first name used to protect her children, said she was left between a rock and a hard place when she decided to pull her two neurodiverse children from their Wellington schools.
Her children, aged 9 and 14, were both diagnosed with autism and ADHD in the last year.
Their symptoms went unnoticed and school became a “very traumatising place”, causing distress because the system was not set up to meet their needs.
When Jess and her partner raised concerns with education providers and mental health professionals, it was “fairly common” to be told told they were being “over-sensitive parents”, she said.
Her children’s behaviour would be labelled as “naughty” at school and felt like a place they had to conform to rather than have their needs met.
“I have no desire to homeschool [but] ultimately we’re so locked out of the system, there’s no other option."
On average, one in five children in Aotearoa is neurodiverse.
It was no surprise many students were falling out of school when an education system was set up without the awareness and understanding of the needs of neurodiverse children, said Justine Munro, chief executive of New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education.
Munro was also co-founder of Neurodiversity in Education Coalition established earlier this year by ADHD New Zealand, Autism New Zealand, Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand and the Centre for Gifted Education.
It was created to lobby for a better education system that met the needs of neurodiverse students.