Tuesday, 28 February 2012

"His last school had

speech therapy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, the orthotics team, the psychologist and all sorts of other things. There were seven kids in his class and his teacher knew what she was doing Cat! Now we have to get him to therapy after school when he is tired. Anna was working from ten until two at the library three days a week but now she has to be ready to rush into school at any time. What's more he has not made any friends and this year is looking to be even worse than last."
I wish I had not asked. A friend had read yesterday's blog post and commented on it before a meeting we both had to attend. His profoundly physically disabled son was moved from his special school to the normal school system in the last term of last year. The move has not been a success.
There are the last vestiges of a school for children with physical disabilities in this state. It is perhaps more of an assessment centre than a school itself. The aim is to place the children into "normal" educational settings as soon as possible. There is a good reason for this. It saves money.
The argument goes quite differently of course. It is all about socialisation, integration, normality, best practice, the best educational opportunities etc etc.
The reality is that some children, perhaps a good many children, are not getting the help they need. The friend who was talking to me yesterday is aware that his child needs far more help than he is getting. His son has a rare medical condition which needs constant monitoring. He needs help with all the activities of daily living. Last week his class at school went on an outing. He was left behind because it was "too hot".
Nobody wants him on their team - not because they dislike him but because he cannot participate and the other children are competitive.  He "hates" school.
His parents think he has regressed physically and is not making the educational progress of which he is capable. I do not know about physical abilities but I did a brief psychological assessment. He is above average. He should be doing better than he is but he told me that sometimes the person who is supposed to help him is doing something else. Without help he cannot get a book. His i-pad like device on which he writes is sometimes not put in front of him because "it's something little and the teacher says I don't have to do it". It would take him longer than the teacher has time for - especially with twenty-one other children in the room.
The school rule is that the other children do not help. This seems odd to me but it was explained in terms of "they might do too much and we want these children to be as independent as possible". It seems the teacher does not even have time to say, "Andy, please give Ben his book."
My guess is that, despite what is being said, Ben is unwelcome there. He is a medical responsibility the school is uncomfortable with. Yes they know what to do if something goes wrong with the oxygen line but they do not want to be responsible for that. They do not want to be responsible even though there is supposed to be an aide available for Ben. She is being used elsewhere in the school.
Ben himself told me, "They don't want me."
An eight year old should not know that.


JO said...

This is sad.

I've known a different experience - my local schools have a long tradition of including children with disabilities. I have seen other children gently help those who are less able, incorporate them into games as well as lessons. The result - young people who are less concerned with differences than with potential, and with empathy.

Anonymous said...

No child should know that but far too many children do. A-N