One article, published by iVillage told the story of a Mother, who’s child couldn’t go to childcare because a “special needs” boy was hitting and biting her. The other article, published by the Sydney Morning Herald was talking about looking into funding under the “Students with Disability” program and what impact cutting $100 million dollars from the budget will make.
I can tell you exactly what impact it will make. It will create an avalanche of articles like the first one from parents who are concerned for their child’s education and safety because kids with special needs are not being funded and helped to the level that is needed.
A couple of hours a day does NOT cover the education and social needs of a child with a disability. And cutting the funding even further? I’m terrified to think of the impact, not only for the child with a disability but to the entire classroom environment.
Early Childhood Education is at a breaking point. More and more children are entering childcare, kindergarten and schooling with increasing behaviour issues and they’re not being funded. Autism diagnosis rates are now 1 in 110 and 14 percent of all Australian children have mental health or behaviour issues.
As parents of neurotypical kids you’re told to be patient. As a parent of three special needs kids I have to tell you, my patience has run out!
There was a funding appeal lodged with additional reports and documentary evidence from a government Speech Pathologist with behaviour witnessed such as:
“The Assistant Principal was called to Casey’s room and the speech pathologist accompanied her. Casey was lying facedown flat on the floor crying and wailing. The other children were around him in a circle. He was picked up and assisted to a beanbag in the corner. He continued to howl loudly so that he was unable to access the curriculum and the learning of others was compromised.”
Clearly my son was in need of additional assistance. An Integration Aide would have been able to help my son and ensure learning of other children wasn’t interrupted. But according to those who govern the distribution of funding, my son wasn’t eligible. And he’s not the only one.
There’s a huge gap between those who need funding and those who get funding. The kids who sit in that gap are the ones that who despite having a diagnosed disability and severe behaviour issues also have “normal” intelligence. In order to qualify for funding with an Autism Spectrum Disorder a child must have language scores two standard deviations from the norm.
My son could read 100 words when he started school, so clearly, to the assessing departments, he didn’t need assistance. He also didn’t qualify for a Special School, his IQ was too high, or an Autism specific school, he didn’t “fit” the criteria and have enough of a language deficit.
Clearly there is a rise in children being diagnosed with autism. The numbers of autism specific schools throughout Australia are rapidly growing. Until science figures out just what is causing this massive growth curve in autism and behaviour issues, these kids need support. Is it the colours, preservatives, pesticides, pollution, gene mutations, who knows, but it’s getting worse. Removing $100 million in funding will not help!
To the parent who was brave enough to be outspoken about the abuse her daughter has to deal with, I am sorry. Sorry that the child’s aide couldn’t be there. Sorry that you have been asked to be patient and no, you shouldn’t have to put up with it. Your child has the right to be in a safe environment. As for your question as to what you can do?
Help us. Help those of us who struggle every day with children who have no control over their behaviour, thoughts and feelings. You see the thing about having a special needs child is that you’re always fighting. You’re always exhausted and most of the time, you’re just trying to cope. The idea of changing the world seems about as impossible as finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
You can help by sending letters of support to Labor leader Bill Shorten, who is about to request a senate inquiry into the education of kids with disabilities. Tell him how the failing system is not just hurting special needs kids but those around them too. Share this article with everyone you know and raise awareness for helping kids with special needs.
I'd hate to guess how many teachers have become alcoholics in the wake of having to deal with the intensity of their classrooms but I can promise you this. In the long run, stress leave and sick leave will probably end up costing the government more than a $25 per hour classroom aide will.
Bring back the funding, add in additional funding, employ more Integration Aides and revise the Program for Students with Disabilities. We all need to help our kids with special needs, now.