Why Do Kids With Special Needs Still Fall Through The Education Cracks?

So…education and how it deals with those frustrating square pegs that outrightly refuse to fit into the system provided my the mainstream education of round holes.

Photo by August USW at http://www.flickr.com

You know the ones I’m talking about. Those kids with those newly-invented diseases created by the middle-classes that the media like to patronise, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD and even autism.

It must be difficult for educators, poor things, having all these kids in their classrooms with these new-fangled, millennial, mental health conditions that apparently never existed before our time. (*cough* BULLSHIT!)

‘We never had anxiety in our day,’ is a comment that makes me want to gauge someone’s eyes out.

Yes, we all know that funding in education is tight and that there are limitations to how much these kids can be supported. And then there is the pressure of good results that the schools need to churn out to have their funding increased which can be hampered by these kids. And in a fair world, poor results might suggest that the school needs more funding for greater support, but in our competitive, semi-corrupt world where we make decisions that can make or break people, based on budgets, it can mean that precious funding is withdrawn due to poor performance.

So who is the real victim in this political tug of war?

It’s those annoying kids who distract other kids because they can’t concentrate and who aren’t being supported enough or taught in a way they understand and so trail behind their peers academically and socially year in, year out, because they are sent out of class, bullied, or have simply disengaged. 

And their parents, who work hard and contribute to this state education system, and so rightfully expect equal opportunities for their kids, are left feeling cheated, disappointed and angry. Because, (believe me), what they’re doing is a tough job already – it’s no bed of roses bringing up a child who not only has special needs but is also trying to come to grips with all the challenges a system that is anathema to them presents to them.

And they intuitively know that the school has given up on them, which is why they end up giving up on themselves and in the long term become more damaged and inevitably drain the government of more money for support as adults.

Kurt’s school explained to me that their recommendation that he leave year 12 was nothing to do with their impending results, but based on his ‘lack of motivation’. Now, you know that I know that my boy is no saint when it comes to behavior and admittedly there was truanting involved, yet in those last few months I received not one phone call from either his year group co-ordinator, the head teacher, or the school counselor; in fact, my only communication with the school was to receive several impersonal warning letters in the post that were threatening and obviously just a way of absolving them of all responsibility.

Whatever happened to the concept of pastoral care in education?

What extra support did we receive for Kurt for having a learning disability recognised by the department of education, an IEP and a designated school counselor – whom I never saw beyond our first meeting? What happened to good, old-fashioned communication, duty of care, wanting to get a kid, (albeit a challenging one), through school and across the line to ensure him of the best chance of success on the other side?

I’d made it abundantly clear that we weren’t expecting Kurt to achieve an Atar, that we’d never imagined our son in a mortar board and gown – the whole look would have clashed horribly with his piercings – instead, we had learned and chosen to focus on his own ‘personal best’ because after years of self-harm we put the limitations caused by his mental health (primarily ‘anxiety’) ahead of any expectations we’d had in a previous life.

We hoped he would remain at school for reasons pertaining to an all-round education – to further develop his emotional maturity, self-esteem and social skills.

So Kurt has been left to carve another notch on his failures board. And yes, some will say he deserves it and others will provide me with the ‘life is tough’, ‘you get out what you put in’ and ‘survival of the fittest’ arguments. And I fully acknowledge those arguments – for normal kids. But not for those kids with disabilities – learning disabilities that don’t mean they are intellectually retarded – (often ADHD kids have the highest IQs) – but require different strategies for learning, more scaffolding, more time, more support to get them there.

Would those teachers have left a physically disabled child in a wheelchair in the corridor if there were no steps to the classroom?

We did have these Spectrum conditions years ago, only those kids were secreted away in special schools, home-schooled or forced to leave school when they were young teenagers. We have so much more knowledge at our disposal now – knowledge that has come from years of extensive and expensive research so that we can help these kids become achievers.

Progress is our understanding of equal opportunities. So why are these kids still falling through the cracks?

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