Sept 1, 2021, Irish Examiner: Kids with special educational needs 'hidden in plain sight' https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40370531.html
A new parent-led campaign is aiming to highlight the systematic failures that lead to children with special educational needs being “hidden in plain sight”. The Not Ok in Schools campaign is highlighting the factors that lead to ‘school placement breakdown’, which is when a family has no choice but to remove their child from school as they cannot cope in the environment available to them. Factors that contribute to school placement breakdown, according to the group, include a lack of appropriate buildings, insufficient supports and special education hours, as well as special needs assistant (SNA) hours being based on “pre-written protocol” instead of the needs of an individual child. Often, school placement breakdown can occur because there aren’t enough physical facilities, resources, staff, or training to support a meaningful, safe placement. Many of the parents involved in the Not Ok campaign have children who are already availing of their third educational placement, even though their child is still in primary school, according to Faye Hayden, a mother from Leitrim. Our children are being hidden in plain sight, technically having a school place, appearing on school rolls, but not attending school, not receiving support. “We wouldn’t send an asthmatic child to school without their inhaler, but we are very willing to send a child with neurological disabilities or conditions to school without the things they need to be able to function,” she said. Faye’s son Patrick is currently “thriving” in a new school environment, but “struggled desperately” in his last school. Recent Dáil figures show that more than 700 children are in receipt of the home tuition grant, as they are without a school place. But this figure doesn’t fully reflect all of those children who have experienced a school placement breakdown, according to Ms Hayden…. “The answer is easy, we simply need to design and deliver ‘square holes': Pathways of genuine inclusion, meaningful education, and equal futures.” Lisa Curran, from Tralee, became involved with the Not Ok campaign due to her son Christopher’s experience in school. “I had to move Christopher from one school this year because he was being left in the corner of the classroom playing with Theraputty,” she said. Christopher is autistic and loves learning different languages and about maths. … Ms Curran said she heard through another parent that when her son had a meltdown, a whistle would be blown and his class would be evacuated. “So his peers ended up afraid of him. Christopher ended up regressing, and actually being afraid of himself. I had to go on the hunt for another school place, and because the numbers are small in Kerry, there are not a lot of units. We now have to travel 40 minutes to an appropriate school…. Special education also needs to play a larger role in teacher training, she added…. The Not Ok campaign has met with Josepha Madigan, the minister for special education, and plans to hold a protest at the Department of Education in the coming months. The group is calling for the establishment of a multi-agency working group to establish a process for assessing school placement breakdowns, an individual planning process to support children with special educational needs. The group is also calling for the removal of the term ‘school refusal’, to be replaced with ‘school-based anxiety’.