Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Sibel Özdemir said in a parliamentary question that 92 percent of autistic children were not enrolled in school and did not receive a formal education in Turkey, the Duvar news website reported.
Addressing the Minister of Education Mahmut Özer, Özdemir said 500,000 children diagnosed with autism were currently not receiving an education. “In Europe children with autism are provided with 40 hours of education a week, whereas in Turkey this drops to an average of two hours. Moreover, the quality of education they receive is very low,” said Özdemir. “This means that autistic children’s right to education is being seriously violated in Turkey.”
Özer said the ministry was working to improve education for autistic children by establishing classrooms equipped for their needs.
Turkey’s Federation of Autism Associations (ODFED) emphasized the importance of education in therapy for autistic children on its website. However, according to OTSIMO, an organization that develops games to educate individuals with learning disorders, children with autism had very limited access to education in Turkey.
Parents of autistic children have frequently complained about discrimination in the classroom and teachers who do not understand the needs of their children.
Speaking to Deutsche Welle Turkish service, Semra Öztürk said her 13-year-old son had to change schools four times in one year. “The teachers don’t want him in the classroom,” she said.
Öztürk said in the end, she had to hire a private tutor for her son who taught him mathematics two hours a week.
Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, the progress of many autistic children stopped because education centers for special needs children closed down, and autistic children could not participate in online schooling.
Lawyer Sedef Erken said children experienced problems socializing during the pandemic and that their psychological condition deteriorated. “It is as if autistic children don’t exist,” she added. “Nobody cares about their emotional, mental and physical development.”
According to Erken, the Ministry of Education failed autistic children when it came to taking care of their educational needs. “The education system does not support these children,” she added.
Teachers and parents said children who had shown great progress thanks to tutoring had regressed considerably during the pandemic, often manifested in tantrums and anger outbursts.