Dublin South West TD Seán Crowe has welcomed a survey released by Inclusion Ireland that highlights impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on children with special needs and said that this particular group of students and their families have been left without educational supports since schools closed. Inclusion Ireland have said it is gravely concerned about the education of children with intellectual disabilities and autism during the COVID-19 crisis.
Teachta Crowe said: “Children with special educational needs are affected more than others as a result of school closures. “This survey by Inclusion Ireland highlights that, once again, children with special needs or impairment have been left behind and given little or no additional supports during the COVID lockdown. “Inclusion Ireland conducted a survey of parents of children with disabilities who are trying to home educate. 733 parents responded. “Parents responding to this survey say they are struggling to provide any form of education to their child or children while also trying to work from home, work on the front line, isolate at home, or minding other children or elderly adults.
“Children with intellectual disabilities and autism say they are missing school a lot with parents believing that the majority look forward to the routine and change of environment of school. “For children with complex behaviour and medical needs, home education is very difficult or non-existent, despite the best efforts of parents and their teachers. “The experience of the vast majority of parents across the state varies widely with some children having a daily class via Zoom and access to educational materials and smart applications from their teacher, but many others are having no contact or education provision. “A big worry for many parents is that their child or children with intellectual disabilities or on the autism spectrum will regress during the lockdown as often happens following normal school holidays.
“We know that in the best of times there are huge barriers to educating at home for parents who are not equipped, able or skilled enough to formally educate their child. “Many children have behavioural challenges that can be extremely difficult or poor attention skills that require the intervention of a skilled teacher and this hasn’t been happening during the health pandemic. “1 in 10 of the survey correspondents said they had no access to technology. These children need to be supported by the Department of Education and Skills with a technology solution or direct access to a teacher or SNA. “Surely with a bit of imagination, the COVID-19 restrictions on schooling should have meant that many of these vulnerable children and their parents would have received additional supports, not less. “Students with special needs suffer far more as a result of any school disruption to their schedule and face far greater challenges than others with distance learning.
“I want to welcome Inclusion Ireland’s survey but we need a plan that includes, not excludes children with learning and special needs. Even at this late stage, Minister McHugh needs to adopt a new approach and use teacher and SNA resources that are available to give this group of children greater educational supports and improve their life chances.”