Charities for parents of children with learning disabilities have welcomed the decision to strike off a teacher who mistreated four autistic pupils, but warned that hers is far from an isolated case.

Alison Mackie was barred from teaching for six months by the General Teaching Council for Scotland, after a series of incidents dating back to 2015.

Working in a special needs base at Chatelherault Primary School, in Hamilton she forced one pupil to swallow toast by holding his head back, pushing it into his mouth and covering his face with her hand, and held another boy down by pressing on his chest in an attempt to force him to brush his teeth.

Mackie also left a distressed pupil to bang his head off the floor through what the professional standards watchdog described as a "tough love" attitude, and stopped other school staff from intervening – leaving the boy with bruises and markings.

Read more: Scottish teacher struck off for forcing toast into autistic boy's mouth

Positive and Active Behaviour Support Scotland (PABSS) supports parents whose disabled children have been mistreated at school. Founder and chief executive Beth Morrison said: "This shocking case adds to the evidence about the experiences disabled children suffer at the hands of those paid to care for them and it should be the start of real action to end this appalling treatment of vulnerable children. A six month suspension in this case seems derisory.

"We know it is possible to support children appropriately so there can be no excuses".

Mrs Morrison added: "Like these families I was not informed about what had happened and I found out much later. Our children have the same rights as all children to be safe, happy and supported by people with the skills and values to help them thrive.”

In December last year a report from the Children and Young People's Commissioner for Scotland warned of regular complaints that children were being restrained or placed in seclusion in response to difficult behaviour and called on the Scottish Government to publish national guidance and ensure all incidents were properly recorded.

Read more: Challenging pupils 'locked up' in school classrooms

In January this year, a study by the Challenging Behaviour Foundation (CBF) said vulnerable children across the UK were being mistreated and punished for behaviour they could not help.

Vivien Cooper, CBF Chief Executive said: “The South Lanarkshire case is shocking but unfortunately it is not an isolated case. Our report Reducing Restrictive Intervention of Children: Case study and survey results, Jan 2019) shows that other vulnerable, disabled children are being physically injured and traumatised by those charged with their care in some schools and this needs to stop."

In many cases children who are behaving in a challenging way are not being 'naughty' but trying to communicate in the only way they know how, she said.

"Vulnerable children across the UK are regularly experiencing restraint, seclusion and other restrictions in the very places they are supposed to be safe. Families tell us that in some cases, they feel staff were aiming to “punish” their disabled children."

Read more: Scottish teacher struck off for forcing toast into autistic boy's mouth

He called for staff to be trained in a technique known as Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) adding: "Schools using PBS taken an individualised approach to children’s needs and recognise that the way to approach challenging behaviour is to deal with the issue causing it. Schools using it have reduced the need for restrictive interventions, making school a safer, calmer place for both children and staff."

She also called for support for children and families affected by improper behaviour by staff. "We need to see much better accountability at all levels so people are held properly accountable where children have been harmed.”

Read more: 'School's bad, school's bad,' my son said, 'It's scary. Teacher hurt me.'

Nick Ward, director of the National Autistic Society Scotland, said the charity had also heard many horror stories about the experiences of autistic pupils at school: “These pupils and their families were betrayed by both their teacher and their local authority. I am pleased that the GTCS has taken firm action," he said. "While this is a particularly distressing case, we regularly hear about autistic children being restrained, forced into seclusion rooms and unlawfully excluded by teachers who haven’t had sufficient training."

NAS, Children in Scotland and Scottish Autism are campaigning for high quality autism training for teachers to be mandatory and of a high quality, he added. "All teachers will have autistic pupils in their classrooms throughout their careers. Those teachers deserve training to help them teach their pupils, and those pupils deserve to be taught by someone who understands their needs.”