The Little Girl........ and The Petition.
Friday, May 30, 2014
I cautiously opened the door to the classroom and gingerly I stepped inside, quite unsure of what was to greet me.
And there they all were; the witches, the wizards and the cute little fairies; a granny, a judge, a couple of trees and various other assorted characters. Just chatting and playing as they excitedly hung out together.
No, I hadn't stepped into an alternative universe such as 'Narnia' or 'The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe'. I'd simply joined the world of school children preparing to go on stage for their end of year show.
The air was charged with 6 year old excited squeals, mixed with the older children's barely subdued 'OMG'-ness. Some were already in costume, others frantically looking for 'a pin'... 'my witch's hat'..... 'where's my crutches' .... in between strains of ... 'ow..he pulled my hair' . There was also a line of children waiting for Make-Up, and getting terribly excited to see their transformation into a pretty fairy, a scary witch - with plenty of pretty glitter, of course! - or an older adult.
I couldn't but get caught up in their delight as I performed my own part; that of one of two classroom supervisors.
We monitored their running, squealing, hugging and lifting - yeah, lifting! - to ensure safety while they enjoyed this social gathering with their school pals, before going on stage.
And then I spotted her. The little girl, pretty in pink, fluttering around like a social butterfly from group to group and child to child. With a 'high-five' over there, a 'please swing me, my turn' over here and a spot of 'Chinese Whispers' with her acting group in the corner.
It was so charming to watch. All the children, no matter their age playing with her as requested; some even queuing up to do so!
She was a very popular little girl.
She also happened to be a little girl with Down Syndrome who was very much accepted as part of the group. See, she had the support of an SNA from when she commenced school in Junior Infants, and that helped her to learn and to integrate socially with her peers.
I thought how wonderful it was to see how all children learn social skills, tolerance and acceptance through a policy of properly supported inclusion in mainstream education.
And then I felt sad and worried for the little children with Special Education Needs starting Junior Infants this September. They won't have the valuable support of an SNA. They will have to commence school before they can apply, with no guarantee that they'll get one.
I felt so sad and worried for the little children in any class with a diagnosis of ASD , who also have a separate EBD/SEBD diagnosis and the requisite care needs. They'll have to try and subsequently fail before an application can even be made. Those ASD children without the additional diagnosis or requisite care needs won't even be considered.
While I worry about the children from 4th class on I'm extremely sad and worried for the children with Special Education Needs starting in mainstream secondary schools, they will most likely not get any SNA support at all.
I felt very sad and worried about all these children who will have to try and fail in front of their peers. I worry about the damage this will do to their confidence and self esteem and I wonder how their peers will cope with and react to this, especially those in Junior Infants.
It really, really saddens me to think that these Departmental changes will mean that children with Special Education Needs will suffer so much and will seriously impact on how their peers will react to and accept them.
I care so much about the impact of circular 0030/2014 that I wrote this blog post and a previous one expressing my concerns: http://jazzygals-steppingout.blogspot.ie/2014/05/the-fight-for-supported-inclusion-for.html
Looking For Blue Sky cares so much that she wrote this blog-post expressing her concerns: http://www.lookingforbluesky.com/2014/05/what-does-your-child-need-in-school.html
The community of St Anne's NS; Shankill cares so much that they set up the We Care Do You campaign on facebook and twitter. They also set up this online petition addressed to our Minister for Education and Skills.
If you are worried about the future of education in Ireland then your signature would really be appreciated. Just click on the link, it only takes 2 minutes and would mean a lot.
At the time of publishing this almost 1800 people have signed the petition.
We ALL care so much....