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(Israel) "Students...with disabilities growing every year"; "outpacing pop. growth"

Oct 19, 2021, Haaretz: Program to Mainstream Israeli Children With Disabilities Backfires, as More Parents Opt for Special Education

The Education Ministry is giving the parents the choice, rather than having professionals decide, but the parents say the regular classrooms are not equipped to meet their children’s needs The number of Israeli children registered for special-education classes this school year increased 50 percent from last year, as the number of students mainstreamed into general educational settings declined by 20 percent. Ironically the decline occurred shortly after the Education Ministry began implementing a plan designed to do precisely the opposite – “to integrate students with a variety of special needs into the educational institutions,” as the ministry put it. During the 2020-2021 school year, of the 60,000 children diagnosed with disabilities, roughly half were in mainstream education and the other half were in special-education classes or schools. This school year, about 40 percent are mainstreamed, and 60 percent are in special-education programs…. Parents of disabled children who spoke to Haaretz confirmed this. “My daughter needs a support aide in the regular classroom, and if she had one she would go far,” said Sharon Deri, whose 8-year-old daughter has a developmental disability. Most recently, the inclusion committee approved six hours per week of aid for her. “That’s not enough,” the mother said. “They’re forcing us out of the regular class into a special education classroom. There’s no real choice,” she insisted, adding that she offered to pay for additional hours for a classroom aide, but the Education Ministry does not permit that. The committees set an individual support budget for children being mainstreamed, based on their disability and needs. Theoretically, parents can choose how to split the budget between aides and therapies, but a shortage of these professionals often makes that impossible. “We asked the committee for a speech therapist, but at the new school, we were told there weren’t enough therapists, so he can have a tutor instead,” said the father of an autistic high-schooler who sought to transfer from special education to a regular school setting. The father chose to pay for his son’s speech therapy himself, an option not everyone can afford. “The one-on-one aides are barely trained to work with autistic children and their turnover is very high,” said Yaniv Be’eri, whose son Kfir is autistic and attends a regular elementary school class. The regular teachers don’t have the skills necessary to mainstream children with disabilities, “for whom they are a kind of headache,” as he put it. … The number of Israeli students diagnosed with disabilities has been growing every year. As of this year, some 296,000 children are diagnosed as disabled out of the 2.5 million Israeli children aged from kindergarten through 12th grade. The percentage growth of diagnoses is outpacing population growth. About half of the children have been diagnosed with a learning disability of some kind, while the remainder have disabilities including autism, mental disorders, physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities and hearing or vision disorders….


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