Thu | Jun 20, 2024

Letter of the Day | Create equitable environment in special education

Published:Monday | June 10, 2024 | 12:06 AM


Reading these words made my heart hurt: “A boy, six years old, diagnosed with ADHD, has been home since March because his mother doesn’t think he is safe after being physically assaulted at two public schools.” The opening lines of an article published in The Gleaner on June 3. I thought right away, where was the gap?

I am appreciative that he was able to receive an official diagnosis and evaluation. But I think what transpired highlights how accessible – or not – intervention services are for children who require special education. Sadly, it doesn’t seem like we know how to proceed when a child receives a diagnosis of a handicap or illness. This is further demonstrated by the fact that the Ministry of Education has not yet provided us with any meaningful information regarding the special education policy draft, which has been under debate since 2018.

Aiming for “an inclusive and equitable quality education and promotion of life-long learning opportunities for all”, which addresses “eliminating gender disparities in education and ensuring equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities”, is the fourth Sustainable Development Goal. Keeping these gaps in mind, are we really making progress toward this goal?

In other countries such as the United States, as soon as a child receives an official diagnosis of a learning disability or a disorder, a multidisciplinary team collaborates in forming an individualised educational plan (IEP). An IEP is a legal document that outlines special education instruction and the necessary support services for the child to thrive in the educational setting.

In addition to the IEP, it was understood that special education continues outside of the classroom and the school setting, hence there are support services that are offered to the parents of children with special needs. These services include, but aren’t limited to, interventions and strategies that can be used at home, as well as self-care regimens that the parents can employ to keep from buckling under the pressure of taking care of their child.

It is one thing to investigate the circumstances under which the student with ADHD experienced corporal punishment in two schools. However, let’s not forget that there are gaps in the system that could have contributed to a child with special needs being “unsafe” in the typical classroom environment.

We cannot hold those two schools accountable and ignore that there is a greater systemic issue at play. Creating an equitable environment for students in need of special education must be a collective effort.