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Children with Down Syndrome "let down" by resource allocation

Down Syndrome Ireland is to meet with the Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn, on Tuesday.

THE MINISTER FOR education will be quizzed on school supports and resource teachers for children with Down Syndrome in Ireland next Tuesday.

A representative from Down Syndrome Ireland said that they will will bring up a number of issues with him, including the challenges facing children with the syndrome, and the fact that children have to “fail before the extra resources kick in”.

By this, she was referring to the fact that children with mild intellectual disabilities do not qualify for the same level of supports as those with a moderate ID. Some parents have found that they have worked with their children before they attend school on things such as numeracy and literacy levels for example, so they are diagnosed with a mild ID when they reach educational age.

But to qualify for the extra supports, they would have to ‘drop down’ to moderate intellectual disability.

The meeting comes after it was announced yesterday that there will be cuts in teaching support for special needs children due to the fact there is no increase in Special Needs Assistant hours or Resource Teacher hours, even though there has been an increase in pupils who need these supports.

Down Syndrome Ireland said that it is hoping for a “productive meeting” with the Minister for Education and Skills on Tuesday when addressing the issue of supports for children with Down Syndrome in mainstream schools.

Nicola Hart, National Speech and Language Advisor, National Resource Team, Down Syndrome Ireland, told TheJournal.ie that they feel children with Down Syndrome are being “let down” by the resource allocation system:

which does not recognise the complex needs of children with Down Syndrome. This is extremely unfair.

DSI noted a recent report by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office highlighted the administrative failings of his department since 2005 in supporting children with Down syndrome as their needs befit.

Ombudsman report

In a statement on educational provision in mainstream school for children with Down Syndrome, the Ombudsman Emily Logan said that her office had received two complaints from mothers on behalf of two children with Down Syndrome.

The resource teaching the children were receiving was as a result of having been assessed as being within the mild learning disability category of special need. Both mothers contended that the special needs of their children arising from Down Syndrome are quite different from those arising from a mild learning disability.

Under the system for allocating resource teaching hours to children with special needs, Down Syndrome is not recognised as a specific category of special need.

Children with Down Syndrome may receive resource teaching hours by belonging to a category of special need recognised under the current system

The ombudsman found that that the administrative actions of the Department of Education and Skills taken in provision for the special educational needs of children with Down Syndrome attending mainstream primary schools come within the ambit of Section 8 of the Act.

It said that this section has adversely affected children with Down syndrome generally; has been based on an undesirable administrative practice and is contrary to fair and sound administration.

Assessment and allocation

The DES introduced the General Allocation Model (GAM) in 2005 to reduce the need for assessments/diagnoses for children with mild, high incidence disorders.

It was never intended, or resourced, to support children with complex and enduring disorders, but DSI said that some children with Down syndrome have been reliant on it for resources.

The Ombudsman for Children noted that the DES failed to monitor the effect of the GAM on children with Down Syndrome and also failed to respond to the concerns of a number of educational partners, Down Syndrome Ireland, and parents of children with Down Syndrome.

It also noted:

undue delay in recognising and initiating steps to address the impact on the fullest possible educational inclusion that  may arise from the cluster of disabilities associated with children who have Down syndrome.

The ombudsman also noted that there is a ‘compelling case for implementation of early and definitive action, in the best interests of children with Down syndrome’

Read: Parents fight against closure of special needs pre-schools>

Read: Cuts in teaching support for special needs children “utterly unacceptable”>

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