- An eight-year-old boy with autism was locked in a plywood box to calm down
- The box had no windows, just a peephole, and measured eight cubic metres
- His mother, Melbourne woman Emily Dive, is suing the Department of Education
- Lachlan hasn't attended school in more than a year - he can't be accommodated
- Previously he was only permitted to attend school for two hours a day
The mother of an eight-year-old boy with autism claims her son was put into a plywood box with only peepholes to calm him down.
Mother Emily Dive has slammed the Department of Education for their treatment of her son, Lachlan.
She also claims Lachlan's school attendance has been restricted to only two hours a day after being enrolled in four schools in two years.
'The trauma that Lachlan has been subjected to within the education system is unforgivable,' she told Daily Mail Australia.
Emily Dive (left) is suing the Department of Education in Victoria for their treatment of her son Lachlan (right), eight, who has autism
Her comments come just days after One Nation's Pauline Hanson sparked a heated debate when she called for Autistic children to be pulled out of mainstream classes and educated in a 'special classroom'.
Ms Dive, 28, says her son Lachlan's symptoms have worsened as a result of his time at the schools where she believes he was mistreated and his needs ignored.
One of the most distressing experiences for the mother-son duo was the use of the dark and isolated box at one of the schools he attended.
The box was constructed in the school's resource room out of plywood, and measured eight cubic metres.
'The room was pitched to me as a "calm down" room,' she said.
'If Locky began to show high signs of anxiety - which to people looks like defiant, disruptive behaviour, then he would be "encouraged" to use the room.
The youngster had allegedly been put into a plywood box built in the classroom's resources room with no windows, only peepholes when he needed to calm down during class
Ms Dive says her son was only allowed to attend school for two hours a day, and she had to take the reins on his education
'A condition on his behaviour contract - which was the school's approach to assisting my son with his disability - was that if he couldn't re-regulate in that room, I was called to pick him up.'
Ms Dive claims the principal of the school claimed all students would be encouraged to use the room in times of heightened emotion, but the mother of one was unable to ever verify if that happened.
'After a daily battle of dealing with school in the context we have, you're broken, you're defeated and it takes a toll,' she said.
'You're fed the information like its a privilege, that the school is doing you a favour by providing an additional space to have your child re-regulate, that it doesn't infringe on their human rights.'
Lachlan was not eligible to attend a school designed for children with special needs as his IQ was too high to qualify him, and was instead given funding for a teacher's aide to come and help him for two hours a day.
When the funded hours were up, the child was also sent home.
Ms Dive has been teaching her son to the best of her ability from home, but wants to see him thrive in a school community that is able to support him.
'I relied on things like learning apps on the iPad and taught him to read myself,' she said.
'Locky had no idea what a school routine entailed because he had such limited exposure to one.'
Routine for people with autism is hugely important and can be a way of keeping those diagnosed stable and focused when things become overwhelming, according to Autism Spectrum Australia.
'[Lachlan's] anxiety was evident even before we got to the school gate,' Ms Dive said.
'There were inconsistencies as to who he would have assisting him in the classroom. His days were unpredictable, staff forever changing their approach and strategies because they just had no idea what to do'
The Melbourne woman says her son's autism has worsened as a result of the 'trauma' he was put through at school
Lachlan was expelled in April last year and has not returned to school since
Lachlan was expelled from his last school in April last year due to his severe behaviour, and has received no support or resources since.
Ms Dive said she was pushed by the Department of Education to re-enroll her son in a school, even if he was not to attend it, in order to keep his meagre funding going.
She claims her son will never be able to attend the school he is enrolled in as it cannot meet his high and complex needs.
For Locky, a 'charming and warm hearted' boy who loves to cook, dance and read, school has always been an 'overwhelming' experience.
Ms Dive said she is unable to discuss school with her son without him becoming overwhelmed and distressed.
She says the Department have left the eight-year-old's future in her hands, and have asked her to come up with her own solution.
'Lachlan in no way is a cut and dry, easy-fix case, but we are also not the only ones in this position. We are in limbo.
'I have a little boy not knowing when, where or how he will get an education.
'I'm just a mum with a boy who wants to go to school.'
She says the Department of Education needs to be more accountable for the children in their care, regardless of their needs.
'Until the correct resources, education and over-haul of the system takes place, I don't know what Locky's educational future looks like,' she said.
Disability advocate Julie Phillips says it is 'incredibly sad, but true' that parents often have to turn to legal measures to finally get help for their children with disabilities.
Ms Dive has filed a complaint through the Australian Human Rights Commission with the help of disability advocate Julie Phillips
Ms Phillips is helping Ms Dive file a legal complaint through the Australian Human Rights Commission in the hopes of helping the young boy back in to school with proper care.
She says the major issue is a lack of funding.
'Kids with disabilities in general are often not permitted to attend full time, and are often subjected to restraint and seclusion, both in public and special needs schools.
They are just generally treated with incompetence.
'But in fairness to schools, the department, year after year, refuses to take notice of the recommendation of various reports and will not fund them to bring in the expertise that they need.'
Despite numerous reports tabled to Parliament detailing the struggles children with disabilities face, Ms Phillips says there are usually more words than actions.
For Lachlan, Ms Phillips and Ms Dive are seeking financial compensation for damages, but also want help getting him back to school - something the women both say will take a long time.
'Lachlan is quite young and so we've got to get him some competent assistance to enable him to recover or rehabilitate from his school experiences in order that he can return,' Ms Phillips told Daily Mail Australia.
'Not only is it the law you have to go to school, but kids go to school for an education, and he needs an education.
'It's going to be a long journey because the seclusion they've subjected him to and the restrictive practices and his long term disengagement.
'He is so damaged that he needs some intensive, high level expertise applied to his situation, which is beyond anything any department employee can do.
'They will have to pay for that assistance until he recovers and is able to regain a level of calmness.
'Things must change. They can't go on like they've been going on for decades now.'
Ms Dive wants to see her son back in school, but the youngster will need serious professional help to get there
A spokesperson from the Australian Department of Education and Training said the Federal Government '[recognised] that students with disability have specific individual needs and education is not one size fits all'.
'While over 90 per cent of students with disability attend mainstream schools, it is important that there are a range of educational settings available including specialist schools and specialist units in mainstream schools.
'Parents and carers are the best people to decide the most appropriate educational setting for their child.
'The Disability Standards for Education 2005, formulated under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, set out the obligations of education and training providers to ensure that students with disability can access and participate in education and training on the same basis as those without disability.
'The Government is investing a record $242.3 billion in school recurrent funding over the next 10 years as part of its Quality Schools reforms. Of this amount, an estimated $21.2 billion will be provided for students with disability.
'This funding helps provide the resources schools need to enable students with disability to participate in education on the same basis as other students.'
The Department of Education Victoria has been contacted for comment.
Senator Hanson came under fire last Wednesday for telling the Senate having a disabled child in a mainstream classroom was holding back other students, as they required special care.
The Queensland Senator made the remarks during a speech confirming she will help to pass the Federal Government's $18.6 billion school funding package.
'These kids have a right to an education by all means - but if there's a number of them, these children should actually go into a special classroom, looked after and given that special attention,' she said.
Teachers ‘locked boy, 8, in plywood box to calm him down’
His mum has brought a case against the Australian Department of Education (Picture: Supplied)
An Australian mother claims her eight-year-old autistic son was put in a plywood box by teachers to ‘calm him down’.
Emily Dive, 28, is now suing the Department of Education in the country over the alleged treatment of her son Lachlan, whom she calls Locky.
She also claims Lachlan’s school attendance has been restricted to just two hours a day after being enrolled in four different schools in two years.
‘The trauma that Lachlan has been subjected to within the education system is unforgivable,’ she told the Daily Mail. Emily says Lachlan was mistreated and his needs ignored at the schools he was sent to, causing his symptoms to worsen.
Locky is autistic and needs special care (Picture: Supplied)
One of the schools, she said, built a dark and isolated plywood box measuring eight cubic metres and said they would put Lachlan inside.
‘The room was pitched to me as a “calm down” room,’ she said. ‘If Locky began to show high signs of anxiety – which to people looks like defiant, disruptive behaviour – then he would be “encouraged” to use the room.
‘A condition on his behaviour contract – which was the school’s approach to assisting my son with his disability – was that if he couldn’t re-regulate in that room, I was called to pick him up.’
He was expelled from his school for behavioural issues (Picture: Supplied)
Lachlan’s IQ was too high to qualify him for a school designed for children with special educational needs, and was instead given funding for a teacher’s aide to come and help him for two hours a day. When the funded hours were up, Lachlan was sent home.
He was expelled from his school in April because of his behavioural difficulties, and his mum claims he hasn’t received any support or resources since then.
A spokesperson from the Australian Department of Education and Training said the Federal Government ‘[recognised] that students with disability have specific individual needs and education is not one size fits all’.
His IQ was too high to qualify for an SEN school (Picture: Supplied)
‘While over 90 per cent of students with disability attend mainstream schools, it is important that there are a range of educational settings available including specialist schools and specialist units in mainstream schools.
‘Parents and carers are the best people to decide the most appropriate educational setting for their child.
‘The Disability Standards for Education 2005, formulated under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, set out the obligations of education and training providers to ensure that students with disability can access and participate in education and training on the same basis as those without disability.
‘The Government is investing a record $242.3 billion in school recurrent funding over the next 10 years as part of its Quality Schools reforms. Of this amount, an estimated $21.2 billion will be provided for students with disability.
‘This funding helps provide the resources schools need to enable students with disability to participate in education on the same basis as other students.’