The Project host Waleed Aly has hit back at Pauline Hanson after her controversial comments that children with autism should be removed from mainstream classrooms.
The Gold Logie winner, who rarely speaks about his private life, has spoken candidly about raising his nine-year-old son Zayd who suffers from the disorder.
“One of the problems with autism – and one of the problems with what Pauline Hanson said about it yesterday - It’s not that it’s never true that it can be really difficult for teachers,” he explained in an interview on the Carrie & Tommy radio show.
“But it’s that the experience of autism is so diverse that you can’t possibly categorise it in this way.”
He continued: “There’s this saying that goes around among people who either have children with autism or are experts in the area: ‘If you know one person with autism, then you know one person with autism.’ It’s incredibly diverse.”
Waleed went on to explain that there are “a million different ways” for kids with autism to learn, which is why the One Nation Party leader’s call to separate them from other children doesn’t sit well with him.
“For some, it can actually be quite fitting then to be in a classroom environment. And they might need special schooling,” he said.
“But for others, if they’ve got an aid or even if they’ve just got a teacher who’s just a bit switched on and attentive to it, they’re fine and they thrive.”
Waleed’s comments come one day after Hanson came under fire for saying that teachers were spending disproportionate amounts of time on teaching autistic children, at the expense of “other kids who want to learn.”
“I hear so many times from parents and teachers whose time is taken up with children—whether they have a disability or whether they are autistic—who are taking up the teacher’s time in the classroom,” she said, announcing her party’s support for the government Education Reform Bill.
“It is no good saying that we have to allow these kids to feel good about themselves and that we do not want to upset them and make them feel hurt. I understand that, but we have to be realistic at times and consider the impact this is having on other children in the classroom.”
This article originally appeared on New Idea.