Special Education: For Children with Disabilities

Special Education: For Children with Disabilities

March 10, 2020 20 By Ronny Jaskolski


[Bell rings] [They clap and sing] An education is allowing people
to get the best out of themselves and to develop the best way
that they can I want her to learn. I want her to leave school
with a qualification I want her to have a job Our goal is no different
to a normal family We just know we’ve got
a big problem… right from the start. You know,
and we have these policies… I call them ‘meringue policies’… They look so sweet,
so seductive from the outside and they’re full of
nothing for parents You know, we’ve got to
do better than this [Bell rings] I bet you thought every kid
in New Zealand has always been entitled
to a free education. Not so! Until 1989, schools were allowed
to refuse entry to kids with disabilities. [Bell rings] Twenty years ago… Bridget Snedden and Colleen Brown
had school-aged children. Both had boys with Down’s syndrome. The mums fought for the best
education for their kids. Alex Snedden and Travers Brown
are adults now. But today Bridget and Colleen
are still fighting the cause for other children with disabilities. The battle line might have shifted
since Alex started school but the war’s far from over. Every kid should be going
to their local school Educators should be
educating kids regardless of what
their ability is. How come schools can still
turn parents away? How come I can sit in a room
and listen to a father last week, say to me:
‘I went to one school’ ‘I’m zoned for and they
didn’t make me feel welcome.’ In 1989, the government
redrafted The Education Act. It was known as
‘Tomorrow’s Schools’ Its big promise was to give parents
more say over the education
of their children. The legislation declared
every child now had the right to be
educated in their local school. Teachers would be given the resources
they needed to cater to kids’ needs. But ‘Tomorrow’s Schools’ has never
quite delivered on the promise made
to kids with disabilities. As I saw, parents’ energies
were then re-directed back to the local community. ‘How to keep a child in school’ ‘How to make sure the disabled
had a voice within a school’ And then were fewer
people out there in the Ministry of Education
batting for us. What’s in there?
We have got. The Education Act! I mean, how many families
have got The Education Act in a box for
their grandchildren? You know, I can’t believe
that we went through you know, what we did
at the time. [Bell rings] In 1990, when the new Education
Act took effect schools were legally bound
to accept kids with disabilities. But even our own producer found her kid was turned away
at the school gates. The principal’s comment was:
‘We don’t want another problem’ Her son had his bag
on his back and it should have been
his first day at school. Colleen Brown found
her local school was welcoming of Travers. But there were no guidelines
as to how his needs would be met. Parents all over the country
were placed in the awkward position of having to negotiate
with their school. The struggle was
that we didn’t know what the needs of
the children were. And we didn’t want to impose
anything on the school that they couldn’t deal with. So we planned that we may
have to sub-divide a classroom so they have some ‘down time’
from being with other children. We contacted the director of
Special Education in Wellington to get resourcing. There was no resourcing that we
could see would be theirs by right. And we to-ed and fro-ed
on this whole matter. Man, we were determined! We were determined to make sure
that Alex had a damn good education! From a place that welcomed him. And at one point we realized that it wasn’t
going to happen and went somewhere else,
that was ok. It’s taken a long time
to get over this It took a long time,
I should say! I’m well and truly over it now. When Tomorrow’s Schools
came into force there was no new pot of money
that schools could easily tap into to support kids with disabilities. It wasn’t until six years after
Tomorrow’s Schools was introduced that specific funds were created. [Bell rings] So, is there enough? We’ve asked a group of parents
what they think of current provisions. Bronwyn works as a teacher
as a teacher-aide her daughter, Hayley,
goes to a mainstream school and has Down’s syndrome. The first thing of all is:
minimal! Really minimal. I mean, our children just
aren’t really surviving. They’re doing ok in the mainstream. Some of them are doing
okay in the mainstream but that depends on the school. And the classroom teacher. And the teacher-aide. There are children out there that are really failing
in the mainstream. And it’s all because the school
can’t afford to have them there. Francesca’s son, James,
has Down’s syndrome. He goes to a mainstream school. The way it’s currently set up there obviously isn’t enough
funding for every child to have the supports
that they require. Sharon’s son, Elliot,
goes to a special school. Sharon works as a teacher
in a mainstream school. The current funding structure
really doesn’t work for kids with very high needs
if they’re going to be mainstreamed. They are the kids that need
to go to the special schools because all their allocations
can be accumulated And teachers that are specialized
in their kinds of needs can be employed and paid. What’s the first number?
One! Good girl, Sarah! Around 100,000 children
receive some kind of special assistance at school. Only 7 percent have any
real certainty under something
known as ORRS: Ongoing and Reviewable
Resource Schemes. Specific to the child’s needs,
it involves parents filling out a multi-page application form
that goes into huge detail. Right back to
the mother’s pregnancy. Parents say, to qualify
you basically need to prove your child is more disabled
than the next. One, two, three, jump!
Good work! The expectation that you
will tell your story again and again and again. You know, I said this to a group
of women the other day I was expected to tell my story
about Trav and our family to a succession
of professionals. They were things I had never
told my own mother. And you never knew what they would do
with that information. Whether or not it would be held
in respect And I doubt it. And I see parents going through
those indignities now Again and again! Stripped, absolutely stripped! For what? Our right. A right that we have
in this country. Ok Neek, time to brush
your teeth! Ten year old Annika
has autism and attends her local school. Even before she started school her parents knew she’d need
one-on-one support so that her behavioral and
educational needs would not affect other kids
in her class. We’ve come a long way. From the child that Annika
was at five going into school, to now
at ten in year six. She’s very used to the routine
of getting up, getting dressed and going to school. Annika, she was really
like a wild horse! She was just a child
completely out of control! I had no control. I couldn’t
get her to sit at the table. I couldn’t get her to do anything. To follow any instruction
it was incredibly frustrating. For both parties. Frustrated by the lack of any
ongoing guarantee of support Jackie Groothuis and her husband
have put themselves under enormous financial pressure. They’re paying for their child’s
educational needs themselves. For three years we’ve funded
a teacher-aide 10 hours per week. So that’s 150 dollars a week. And that was really successful. Really successful and quite often the teacher-aide would set up
her own program. Careful management of Annika
and a daily routine has helped her progress. In the mornings, particularly
going to school it’s an important thing that I
keep it really quiet and calm. And everything stays the same, so that
we can get off to school without Annika getting upset about anything.
Got to start the day calm What I like about school is
when I learn about math and reading. In her lunchbox, it’s the same food
every day. Well, I like playing in the playground.
And learning about things. The hard thing is keeping everything
exactly the same so it has to be Calci Yum,
it can’t be a different brand. It can’t be a different color.
It must be strawberry. We’re learning about volcano facts. And we always do writing. Okay, Neek?
We’re ready to go! Annika is one of the 93 percent
of kids with a disability who don’t qualify for ORRS funding. Their schools and parents just
manage as best they can. We thought that because
all children are entitled to an education that she would go
into mainstream school. And the support would be there. When we got to the school, we realised
that wasn’t the case at all. There’s no teacher-aide waiting there
to take your child and look after, and help
them learn. And the grant that the school has to use is at our school of 650 children,
is equivalent to 2 teacher-aides. I was nervous of Annika
going to school. I was really nervous. But that was the only option,
actually for her to go to mainstream school. The school was always quite welcoming
of taking Annika, which was great. – There you go!
– Bye, Mum! See you darling! She’s a completely
different child now. Yeah, she goes off quite happily
to school. Annika’s education has so far
cost the Groothuis family more than 150,000 dollars, added to
their mortgage. I think Annika’s incredibly
lucky that she was born into a family that 1) has a very determined mother,
and 2) a very supportive husband who goes out to work. And all the money that I earn
goes on Annika’s therapy. There’s no question
the local school has embraced Annika. In the classroom, she does much the same
work as other students. They also happily act as buddies,
supporting her. We’re doing sentence starters
from books that Annika chose. I chose these books,
because they look funny. But the bulk of Annika’s progress
has come from her teacher-aide. Paid for by mum and dad. Just leave that one on there, Annika.
Good girl! Now you’ve got a quarter…
Leave it there, love! You want to put it on there already? Those parents know how difficult
it is for teaching in this country. And they don’t want to add to
that burden. And they don’t want the guilt of it. And I think that’s a very sad reflection
of our society today. But I know that’s how parents think. They do not want the guilt.
They do not want the burden. Shall we start reading this book
together? Ok. And you’ve got your
special card. We have to get real about the lives
of our families. The marriage break-ups,
siblings being neglected for one child with particular needs. Parents having to fight and struggle
and be worn out in the process Four year old, Amelia Reid
has Prader-Willi syndrome. She’s a little girl who finds it hard
to master even the most basic play. She’s tiny. As well as her intellectual impairment,
she tires easily. Her parents, Debbie and Derek have
worried about sending her to the right school. When she goes to school she’s already got the symptoms of
Prader-Willi, we’re aware of… which is overeating, never feeling full
or satiated. There’s the fact that she could be
sifting through rubbish bins or eating inappropriate things. So there’s a safety issue there. She needs to be watched at playtime and lunchtime. Just her wandering, she doesn’t really
have a great attention span. And is so quiet and very small. She can just wander off. Gonna hop up here? [Grunts] This is quite common. She’s odd, in that she won’t
go to sleep during the day at home so she just gets worse
during the day. So a full day at school’s going to be
hard work, isn’t it? Ooh, that was a big yawn! Where we are here, on the North Shore
we’re zoned for two different schools. We’ve interviewed those two
plus another one. All right, step! One of the schools we’re zoned for
is totally unreceptive to taking a special needs child,
it seems. So much so, that they had an
hour-long spiel of why we should go to
a special needs school. School are required to take children. All the kids in their area. And there is a law. However, it’s really easy for a school
to say: ‘Your child would be
better educated’ ‘there are better resources
down the road’ ‘We haven’t done it before’ You know, there’s an attitude and a look that a parent can spot
a mile away. We could have sent Amelia there,
have fought them But she wouldn’t be supported. We’re not going to do that to her. With Amelia’s eating issues,
it’s quite important that school lunches are taken away
or locked up, or things like that. Something simple like that. And they’re not even
prepared to do that. So, her more complex needs were
unlikely to be satisfied there. It’s all gone! Interviewing for the second school
that we’re zoned for just kind of showed
that there’s a huge range of attitudes out there
within the schools system. That they were so receptive,
just poles apart, chalk and cheese. It’s quite amazing. Derek and Debbie
are organized, professional people. But even they’ve found the ORRS process
complex and frustrating. So, people who input into the ORRS form
people like their speech and language therapist,
the early intervention teacher the occupational therapist,
the physiotherapist The teachers at the kindercare, where
Amelia attends They’ve all got their expertise
and experiences with Amelia. Debbie and I do get to see the form
and sign off on it before it’s sent to
the Ministry of Education. It’s quite a hard process
for us because yeah, you have to talk about
your child, its disabilities and what she can’t do. And it’s really out there compared to other five year olds,
for example. It’s quite a sad process to have
to go through. [Grunts] There we go! Good news, they’ve found
a principal willing to take Amelia. But as they live out
of the school’s zone they’ll need the board of trustees
to agree. That’s…95…95 centimeters! [Inaudible] Yeah! Oh, did I pull your hair? One school, that we’re 200 meters
out of zone for the ideal school, they’re actually
a bit more modern. There’s no steep steps. Open plan kind of classrooms. They’ve got a special needs unit
on-site. We would dearly love to go there. And we’ve had some we’ve had an interview
with the principal of SENCO there. When you’re entering into the process
of looking for a school for your child, it’s like going out
cap in hand, and saying: ‘Please take my boy!’ And you don’t quite say it like that. Because you hide behind
all of the other things that…you know, you don’t want
to appear vulnerable. And you are. [Bell rings] If I were the Minister of Education
I would want to see all of the children included
in their local school regardless of their needs. And I would like to see appropriate
resourcing put in place for those. It’s the funding side of things
that makes my blood boil. There seems to be a clear
numbers game by the Ministry of Education,
providing money. 20 percent of applications always fail
exactly, year after year. What’s that about?
It can’t be that simple! You look at Italy. The Italians haven’t had any special
schools for nearly 30 years. And kids just simply go to school. There’s just an expectation that they
live in the world with them educated together. [Classroom chatter] [Playground shouting] If their children are left, they won’t
be able to hold down a job They won’t be able to be a
productive citizen. So what’s going to happen to them
at this end? The state’s going to pay for them
at that end. So, why don’t they pay it this end
when the child needs the help and actually has the opportunity
while they’re young and growing and their brain is developing. Put as much as you can in there
to make them a productive citizen. Travers has educated
future parents about what is right
for their children. They’re going to have
disabled children. And what is right for them? And they will remember
Travers Brown. And they will remember him
sitting alongside them in class. And they will remember that
it wasn’t too difficult.