Pupil faces Prozac treatment over class stress

Chris Heggie feels that Nether Currie Primary is not equipped to deal with son Dylan's special needs. Picture:  Ian Georgeson
Chris Heggie feels that Nether Currie Primary is not equipped to deal with son Dylan's special needs. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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A LITTLE boy with Asperger’s syndrome faces having to take Prozac after lack of support at school left him so anxious he was unable to eat, sleep or leave the family home.

Chris and Julia Heggie said they had been told by mental health workers that their ten-year-old son, Dylan, a pupil at Nether Currie Primary, may need to start taking the powerful anti-depressant as treatment for extreme anxiety brought on by school-related stress.

At a crunch meeting due to be held today, the couple will demand he is enrolled at Kaimes special school in south Edinburgh, where they believe he will receive the help he needs.

They also said Dylan would not return to Nether Currie, even though this carries the risk of court action.

Mr Heggie, 50, who has nearly three decades of experience in social work but is now a full-time carer for his son, said: “Dylan used to come home screaming and crying because he found school so difficult.

“I was so shocked – what the council call ‘inclusion’, I would say is inclusion by name only. It’s basically a money-saving exercise. It was a case of 
box-ticking.”

Mr Heggie said he and his wife, Julia, 38, were particularly angry about the lack of “audited hours” of one-to-one support which the school should provide to youngsters with Asperger’s – a form of autism characterised by 
difficulty in social interaction and non-verbal communication.

They said teaching staff had sidestepped calls to provide the assistance by arguing that classroom and playground assistants were available to help Dylan if he was in difficulty.

And despite also being diagnosed with hyper-mobility and low muscle tone – which make writing extremely painful – the Heggies said Dylan had been landed with piles of extra homework by staff.

“As far as we’re aware, he hasn’t had any one-to-one time on his own,” said Mr Heggie.

“And he started coming home with more and more homework. We got a letter saying that if he did not finish his written work at school, it would be sent home with his homework. Dylan was so upset and couldn’t cope with it.”

The couple said their lives had been made a misery by the deterioration in their son’s mental health and expressed fears over the welfare of his eight-year-old brother, Harley, who is also a pupil at Nether Currie.

Mr Heggie said: “We’re worried the same thing could happen to him and we’re thinking should we pull him out.”

Education chiefs insisted that staff were working closely with Dylan to ensure he receives sufficient support.

A council spokesman said: “This has included expert help from education welfare and educational psychologists.

“The council places a high priority on meeting children’s needs as we want to ensure every child in Edinburgh gets the best possible start in life.”