Schooling choices for special-needs kids
Features Radica Mahase 18 hours August
For children with special educational needs, homeschooling can be an option, at least for a short time. –
DR. RADICA MAHASE
“My son is six years old. He has been attending a preschool near our house for two years. The teacher tried to understand him and worked closely with his speech therapist to help him communicate with other students. She found creative ways to teach him, and he did reasonably well in school.
Both his teacher and speech therapist think he would be fine in a regular elementary school, so earlier this year I filled out the application forms for four public elementary schools in our educational district. I submitted the applications on time, enclosing my son’s diagnostic report and letters from his pediatrician and speech therapist stating his level of development and the fact that he was ready and able to attend a public school.
When I didn’t hear from any of the schools a few months ago, I contacted them to see if my child was accepted. Two of the schools told me that they didn’t have teachers specializing in special education so they couldn’t take him. The other two schools said they had no place, all places were already taken.
“My son is ready to go to elementary school and I really can’t afford to send him to private school. I think it is unfair to send him to private special school because he is very good with children in mainstream schools and we would help him at home with his schoolwork. We had already agreed that we would give him a tutor if we couldn’t help him. Now I just don’t know what to do.
“It’s so frustrating and unfair to him. Somebody advised me to go to the Ministry of Education and report it, especially the two schools that are less than an hour from our house, because no child should be turned away. “I don’t want him to go to a school that they were forced to accept him because I don’t know whether they are bullying him or not working with him. Now I am desperately trying to find an option for him. “
In TT, where inclusive education is not really inclusive and where “no child left behind” is the new mantra, that parent is not the only one in this situation. There are others who have difficulty getting their children to public elementary school and there are those who simply cannot afford to pay for private education for their special needs children. When schools reopen in September there will be more hectic parents looking for ways to raise their children. Parents who couldn’t get their children to a public school or who couldn’t afford a private school.
Ultimately, a school environment is better for children’s socialization. –
As a society, we have ideas about what our children should do – they go to elementary school, prepare for the SEA exam, take an SEA exam, pass prestige school, prepare for all CXC subjects, and maybe pass on to CAPE and then to university and so on. This is the accepted “norm” when it comes to education in our country. But if Covid-19 has taught us one thing, it is that we have to be flexible in how we perceive education and how we raise our children. If, as a parent, you have unsuccessfully explored all avenues to get your child to school, consider other options, including temporarily.
For example, homeschooling can be an option, at least for a short time. Children in the spectrum usually benefit from an individualized education plan that can be done through home schooling. Another option, if the parents can afford it, is to hire a tutor to work at home with your child for a few hours a few days a week. If so, look for retired teachers or university students studying special education to teach your child.
Ultimately, however, a school environment is better for socialization, and remember that the Department of Education’s policy is “no child left behind” to make the media aware of your situation – because if we can boast of inclusive education then every child should be included .
Dr. Radica Mahase is the founder and director of Support Autism T&T