Concern over education of kids with disabilities

Home schooling "not working well"
  • Deborah Condon

Home schooling is not working well for most families who have a child with intellectual disabilities or autism, Inclusion Ireland has warned.

The national association for people with an intellectual disability has expressed "grave concern" about the education of children with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It carried out a survey of 733 parents between April 30 and May 7 and according to the findings, 53% of children are missing school a lot, while 34% are missing it a bit.

Despite the best efforts of parents and teachers, for children with complex behavioural and medical needs, home education "is very difficult or non-existent", the organisation said.

Comments from parents included:
-"We are both working out of home. It is impossible to home school"
-"Child has difficult behaviour, poor focus. Needs a teacher"
-"He does not want me to teach him as I cannot teach the way his teacher
does, and this frustrates us both".

The survey also found that the experience of children differs nationwide when it comes to technology, which is the only method for teachers to contact their students.

Some children are having daily classes via Zoom, or have access to educational materials and smart applications, however 10% have no access to any type of technology for school work.

Furthermore, 45% of respondents do not have access to high-speed broadband, while in some households, technology has to be shared among a number of people, which can lead to difficulties.

Meanwhile, Inclusion Ireland also warned that getting back to school may be a difficult transition for many children, "especially those for whom routine is important".

When asked what kind of supports would help with this transition, the respondents had a number of suggestions, including the provision of home tuition or direct contact with the teacher over the summer, and having a number of arranged visits to the school in advance of it reopening.

Commenting on the survey's findings, Inclusion Ireland CEO, Enda Egan, insisted that home education "is not working well for most families who have a child with an intellectual disability or autism".

"There are huge barriers to educating at home for parents. Children with disabilities require a range of supports including virtual or 1:1 access to a teacher (when public health allows), speech therapy, occupational therapy, technology for remote learning, lesson plans from the child's Individual Education Plan (IEP) and educational materials, such as work sheets, arts and crafts," he said.

Mr Egan added that Inclusion Ireland is seeking an urgent meeting with the Minister for Education, Joe McHugh, to discuss the emerging crisis in special education.


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