Eric Drysdale, 11, with sister Sophia and mom Lori at their Vancouver home. Eric has a learning disability and his parents sold their home to send him to private school._______________________________________________________
Opinion: Special needs kids in B.C. aren’t always getting the chances to succeed
Thankfully, B.C. schools are open again after a difficult period for parents and caregivers. Despite this, big questions still loom — What will be done to ensure that supports for children with special needs foster real inclusion in classrooms, and that these children reach their full potential academically, socially and with the support of their peers? What will be done so that families do not have to search for support for their children outside the system?
While some details have been released about the labour settlement, students with special needs and their parents have yet to see how — or even if — learning conditions will improve. And without some fundamental and evidence-based changes, the likelihood of improvement for these students is small. Unless there are clear assurances that all students are valued, we risk the continuing decline of our entire education system.
We have seen many instances in recent years where students with learning disabilities, such as significant reading delays, have not had their needs met, and parents have scrambled to find private tutors and supports to ensure that their child learns and achieves. Of deeper concern are those students who have behavioural issues requiring more intensive support so that they can be included in the classroom instead of being streamed out of class or into “soft rooms” or other exclusionary measures. Driving these children out of the classroom, and even sometimes out of the school, ignores their needs, and creates a cascading range of social problems that will follow these children into adulthood, at a far greater economic cost than appropriate school and community-based support.
Education policy and practice must acknowledge the fundamental right of every child to receive a quality, inclusive education. It is the responsibility of government, educators and each one of us to ensure that all students’ needs are met. An estimated 60,000 students with special needs attend public schools in B.C., representing 10 per cent of the total student population. These students range from those with sensory disabilities to severe behavioural problems, developmental disabilities, the autism spectrum, learning disabilities, and the gifted.
As prescribed by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, each of these students has the right to a quality education and to attain the highest level possible. Further, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states children students should “receive the support required, within the general education system, to facilitate their effective education.”
Despite Canada being a signatory to both conventions, we know that many children with special needs in B.C. do not fully realize these rights. It is time for the provincial government to make good on the commitments made on an international stage, to the citizens of B.C., especially our children and youth.
Inclusion doesn’t mean parking children in a class without needed supports and expecting the teacher to meet their needs. It means providing nurturing classrooms that support every learner and offering specialist behavioural supports to assist teachers in making this work. Inclusion is not only a legal and moral obligation — it is best practice. Extensive research, including a recent study done at Simon Fraser University, demonstrates that all students benefit from inclusive classrooms.
Source : The Vancouver Sun , 1st Oct 2014