The founder of a riding club for special needs youngsters has expressed concern at a report that says four in 10 children with autism are excluded from schools.
The report, by charity Ambitious About Autism , revealed in some cases parents have been asked to either collect their children early or not bring them to school at all.
Mary Joy Langdon, who opened Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre , in White City, 25 years ago, said: “This report is particularly concerning.”
“People with autism often struggle with social interaction and communication and find it difficult to make sense of the world.
“They often don’t understand social rules, appearing insensitive or inappropriate, or pushing people away as expressing needs and emotions are difficult.
“It is hidden in as much that it is disability that cannot be seen and it can often lead to bullying for young sufferers and problems throughout adult life.”
The pony centre specialises in equine and riding therapy for around 350 children with disabilities and special needs. Many of them are autistic.
Over the years, Ms Langdon and her team of 65 volunteers have taught a number of children who have been excluded from school.
She says they have all benefited from interacting with animals and becoming part of a community where they are treated as equals.
Ms Langdon said: “We can see that children with autism benefit enormously from coming into contact with our ponies and horses.
“The transformation is often breathtaking and always completely magical.
“From the simple joy and relaxation of riding to the enhanced focus the children develop as they take part in activities at the riding centre, there is a rainbow of positive effects for our young visitors.”
The pony centre relies on donations to cover the £180,000 annual costs.
The charity this year launched a £250,000 appeal to mark its 25th anniversary and extend the centre.
Visit www.wormwoodscrubsponycentre.org to support the cause.