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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Addington, splendidly keeps up a steady drumbeat of persuasion which, together with those of us involved in autism issues, has resulted in considerable extra support from Governments. Perhaps I may say to my noble friend the Minister that that support is much appreciated.
As I said in a recent debate, all the manifestos of the political parties stated strong support for those in our communities who have disabilities. I agree totally with all of the key points made by the previous speakers. I share the strongly held view of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, regarding the advantage to the taxpayer if these issues are understood fully in every school in the country. From head teachers to specialists, all teachers should be trained so that they are able to notice the early signs of dyslexia or autism in a child, which can then be passed on to the trained teacher. Early detection is absolutely key, to be followed up by the necessary support. Going through mainstream schooling plays a huge part in a disabled child’s ability to contribute as a member of society and gain that wonderful feeling of quiet self-esteem.
What is the reverse side of the coin? It is hopelessness, a feeling of failure and of not being wanted, neediness and increasing anxiety, leading to increasing mental health problems and, in many cases, early death. What is often forgotten is that no child with a disability is on their own. Parents, grandparents, siblings, friends and carers play a crucial part in their lives; but probably the mothers play the key, devoted role after experiencing huge personal stress and, often, break-up of the marriage. I suggest that strong action would now be right. The right financial support would transform the lives of many millions of people, as well as those of disabled young people. We have the empathy: let us do it now. To borrow Motability’s strapline, let us put disabled people and their families on the road to freedom.