A KILCULLEN mother is fighting for help for her son who lost his full-time special needs assistant when he started secondary school.
First year student Seán was offically diagnosed with aspergers, ADHD and ODD in June 2011 and had a full time SNA and resource hours during his primary education. Since starting secondary school at the Cross and Passion College he was been told that this help is no longer available or recommended.
Seán’s mother Niamh had full psychological and educational assessment carried out in June and a psychiatric assessment in August, both of which state the importance of a full time sna.
“Academically Seán meets and exceeds all targets but he needs constant reminding and encouragment to move from class to class, organise his books and even to change in and out of his PE clothing,” said Niamh.
“With the right support I genuinely believe my son would become a high functioning member of society. My concern is that without this much needed support my son will not reach his full potential and indeed regress in his ability.”
She said that after his first couple of days in school the reprecussions of not having an sna were showing.
“Socially he needs help. I don’t want him to be reliant but he is becoming more anxious. Yesterday he came home with no books and couldn’t do his homework. It’s a very big transition for him.”
According to the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) it is not the department’s policy to have a full time SNA for a child but access to an SNA is based on the student’s care needs.
Niamh was told that all other needs, including his educational and learning needs, are the remit of the teaching staff and the special educational teachers (SET). The school has appealed the decision of the NCSE not to allocate an additional sna.
The reason the NCSE gave for its decision is that as an important part of the transition from primary to secondary school is the development of independence. Niamh was told that peer relationships are also important and that having a person full-time with her son could impede on this.
Niamh has appealed the decision and is awaiting an outcome from this. She has raised the matter also for TD Fiona O’Loughling who raised the issue in the Dáil.
Deputy O’Loughlin was told that in considering applications for support the pupils’ needs are taken in to account and considersation is given to the resources available to the school and whether additionality is needed or the school might reasonably be expected to meet the needs of the pupils from its current level of resources. SNAs are not allocated to individual children but to schools as a school based resource and these allocations change from year to year.
Deputy O’Loughlin was told that the department’s policy is to ensure that every child who is assessed as needing SNA support will receive access to such support.
By the end of this year, there will be a total of 15,000 Special Needs Assistants working in our schools, a 42% increase on 2011.