Girl's family critical of council

PUBLISHED: 10:14 14 September 2006 | UPDATED: 21:16 29 May 2010

Natalie Reuben

Natalie Reuben

THE family of an autistic teenager has blasted their treatment by Essex County Council as disgusting . Autistic Natalie Reuben, 16, of Emblems, Dunmow, was being prepared by her family for the stressful move to her new further education special needs sc

THE family of an autistic teenager has blasted their treatment by Essex County Council as "disgusting".

Autistic Natalie Reuben, 16, of Emblems, Dunmow, was being prepared by her family for the stressful move to her new further education special needs school, which the family was told would be Woodlands School in Chelmsford.

Natalie's mum Karen, 46, and dad Keith, 47, had prepared Natalie on a daily basis, getting her used to the idea, telling her the name of the school months ahead of the start dates.

Natalie was also taken on weekly visits to her new school for the last term, to ensure minimal upset and stress for her.

It was not until the Reuben family received a letter on July 27 that they were informed Natalie would be going to The Chelmsford Hayward School campus instead due to a reshuffle.

Mrs Reuben said: "I can't believe they would do this. I understand these things happen to improve services, but these are special needs children.

"We can't be informed in the last minute, having spent months preparing our children for this big change that everything we told them is longer true. And to then not be able to tell them what their travel arrangements will be, to reassure them is just insensitive."

As part of Natalie's autistic condition, she becomes distressed with change of any kind. Mrs Reuben said: "If we move any ornaments or furniture in the home, Natalie will know and has to move them straight back.

"Routine is such an important thing, I am not allowed to open the door before Natalie rings the doorbell, when she comes home from school, otherwise that will leave her disturbed.

"So to find out that all these months of preparation of Natalie visiting Woodlands School once or twice a week for the last term, was all a waste - was heartbreaking and worrying."

It was not until August 25, less than three weeks before Natalie's start date, that Mrs Reuben received notifications of her daughter's travel arrangements.

Since starting at her new school on Monday, the Reubens have still not had any response from Essex County Council despite their grandfather, Frank Silver, having contacted them two weeks ago.

Mr Silver said:" I find what has happened totally unacceptable as the Essex County Council has not given the required support to the Reuben family and indeed many other children who have the very same problems. The entire saga needs to be dealt with."

A spokesman for Essex County Council was unavailable for comment at the time of going to print.

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