Sidmouth mum: ‘Most vulnerable in our society being let down’

Melanie Mahjenta with her daughter Rosie when she was born.

Melanie Mahjenta with her daughter Rosie when she was born. - Credit: Archant

A Sidmouth mother is looking to raise awareness of autism in young girls, following her own struggle to secure a diagnosis for her daughter.

Melanie Mahjenta said she feels let down by medical services as she believes her youngest child Rosie has always shown signs of the condition.

Rosie, six, is currently undergoing tests with an autistic spectrum conditions team to be officially diagnosed.

To raise awareness, Melanie is speaking out about her three-year struggle to find the right support, so ‘other parents do not go through the same thing’.

The mother-of-four said: “I just feel that the most vulnerable in our society are being really let down. I am constantly battling, but there is no support.

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“Females with autism are too often left inadequately supported when starting school because the professionals that diagnose them are just not recognising what autism looks like in females. Girls are so good at masking their difficulties - that’s the problem.”

Full-time carer Melanie moved Rosie to Sidbury Primary School in September and said that staff are working hard to support her daughter

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However, she thinks more training should be provided to all schools to help support autistic children.

Melanie, who has studied to be a reverend doctor, said: “[Generally] autistic children are not being supported, they are being sent into a school environment where the teachers do not have the training to understand to pick up on the needs of these children.”

The 48-year-old added that she has considered home-schooling Rosie, adding: “In one way it would be far easier as Rosie’s anxiety would be gone. I have recognised that Rosie is, despite her autism, very sociable and it is a myth that autistic children don’t want to socialise.”

A Devon County Council spokesman said mainstream schools are able to work with a range of professionals to help support autistic children, adding: “When children are identified as having a diagnosis of autism, there are a number of assessment processes that define what support is best for their particular need. Support for children with autism has to be personalised and in Devon the vast majority of children with autism attend mainstream schools and have their own individual support programmes.”

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