Sunday, July 27, 2014

Exercise With Caution....


I really enjoyed our fun holiday abroad this year and, as usual, having tired slightly of all the over-eating, I was looking forward to eating more healthily and getting back to my gym on my return. For a while at least, I knew the novelty would soon wear off but those excess holiday pounds needed shedding! And quickly.

You can imagine my surprise when I subsequently found that my beloved Curves gym that I'd been attending for over 6 years had closed down overnight. What now I thought? This gym was so easy to fit into my day, I could just pop in every morning for 30 minutes and be home before a certain Teen Boy even opened a sleep-laden eye.

I've been looking for an alternative ever since. Luckily my Teen Boy brought me on some interesting hikes, with more planned and lots of stories to share with you anon. But then he went on his scout holiday and I was left to my own devices. Solo walks are quite acceptable and even enjoyable but I needed something else. I toyed around with some dance work-out DVDs at home which were fun, but had no motivation that comes with a live instructor and real class members.

Then I discovered that my local gym has Pilates classes. As an ex-dancer Pilates really appeals to me and I'd attended classes some years back too. Besides. Curves had kept me quite fit and I'd also ended every session with some dance-like stretching exercises of my own that's maintained some of my flexibility from my dancing days. Yes, Pilates is perfect for me I thought and off I sashayed to my first class. I mean, Pilates is highly thought of and is even recommended by Physiotherapists. What could go wrong? 

The first class went well, leaving me with expected day-after muscle soreness, demonstrating how hard I'd worked and how effective this class is for core strength. And it was good to have others to work out with, others standards to motivate you. Or make you push yourself harder than you should?

However it was the second class that caused all the problems. Although it got off to a very positive start. I loved it. The instructor was great, initially,  and spent time explaining correct positioning and how to engage your core muscles, which the previous instructor hadn't done. These are crucial concepts for Pilates. However neither instructor bothered to ask the class who was new, or to go around the class checking everyone's positions. This is also crucial for a successful Pilates class. 

Although I enjoyed the class I haven't enjoyed the days since. Being in constant pain and unable to walk properly will do that to you. The problem revealed itself just before bed time the day after the class when pain shot up my leg and, forgive me, into my ass! Funny yet not so. Not when you inch down the stairs during the night crying with the pain!

It's been 5 days now and sometimes the pain is excruciating. That's despite a trip to the doctors to receive an injection and being on regular opiate medications ever since! 

To say I've been feeling quite miserable wouldn't be lying. But I got a lovely surprise visit today from my very good friend Looking For Blue Sky who together with the fabulous Smiley made up this cheery and thoughtful present, that really brightened my day:

                                      
                                                       Thank you Blue Sky :-)

Of course I also have my Teen Boy with his comic updates to amuse me and the news that my little blog has been nominated in Best Personal Blog category in The Blog Awards Ireland 2104 to also cheer me up! My thanks to the person who nominated me as this really was some cheery news in a painful week.

Tomorrow will be another trip to the doctor methinks, I may even see the inside of a hospital yet.

And all because of Pilates, a highly recommended form of exercise!

For what it's worth here's my advice on attending a Pilates class, and on how to survive being laid up:

* It is my opinion that gym instructors are trained in many forms of exercise of which Pilates is just one. If you're attending a gym run class tread carefully, and choose one that at least streams it's classes.

*Preferably attend a class run by an instructor who is Pilates specific. These classes are more expensive but more safely run, in my opinion.

*Remember, just because you're fit and flexible for one form of exercise doesn't mean you are for another.

*If you find yourself stretched out and drugged up on the sofa for days on end then accept that your house will be a tip. You may also want to:

*Put the local takeaway on speed dial.

*Teach your teen to make his own goddamn lunchs and snacks.

*Ensure they know how to iron their own clothes. You may need to draw a map to show where the equipment is stored.

*Ensure that you are not the only one in the house who knows how to correctly load and use the dish washer. Everyone should know where the dishwasher tablets are, which compartment they go into and where the power switch is. Jeez...

And now you must forgive me for this hastily written post, from the strangest sitting position ever. All grammar and spelling errors are purely the courtesy of  opiates.

And now I must go and take some more, and tuck into the chocolates and toffees :-)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Teenage Adventures and Coming of Age


As parents we cherish our children and mind them well, and when they reach their teenage years we realise that it's time to release the reins. Or rather, replace them with extremely loose and invisible ones. You know, so you can give a little tug every so often, when they stray too far or lose the run of themselves a little too much.

It's not an easy thing to do but do it we must, trusting that we've prepared the way well with discussion and by example.  The age of 14 to 18 can be fraught with battles for complete independence, so we must tread carefully and make the most of this window of opportunity. Releasing the reins bit by bit.

And so it was that our Teen  Boy headed off to Switzerland with his scout troop last week. Scout camp went so well last year that we really looked forward to him having another amazing adventure this year. Another opportunity to mix with others and to be part of a team; to spread his wings and blossom. All the while being supervised, by trained scout leaders. With finely tuned, loose and invisible reins all of their own!




 The opportunities that are available for children and teenagers these days are quite extraordinary. Any amount of summer camps - teaching all manners of skills - and Gaeltacht resident summer courses are all there for the asking. And I know for a fact that the latter is not there purely for improving their Irish language skills!

There was nothing so extensive in my day, and even if there were the money wasn't there to fund it.The Gaeltacht was available though, a fact that might amuse my son given that I apparently hail from the prehistoric era. I hated Irish as a school subject, thanks to a teacher who didn't like me, but friends of mine came back from a Gaeltacht trip positively raving about it. The fun they had! Dancing at the ceilís and hanging out after Irish class and at the beach. With boys! I just had to give that a go and so the following year, at the 'mature' age of 14, my parents found the money, released the reins and off I went. To dancing and beaches....and boys!

It was a coming of age, of sorts. The technology allowing instant contact with home was not available in this prehistoric era and weekend visits from parents was not the norm back then. Instead we wrote and received precious letters to and from home. Although I would have received mine sooner had I known what my name was as Gaeilge when letters were handed out at assembly! Oops...

I hoped for a similar coming of age experience this year for my boy, who coincidentally is of the same age as I was back then; back in the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth. The fact that his is a mixed scout troop is one that I conveniently ignored. Besides, scouts don't 'do' Ceilís - not that I'm aware of anyway!  It's a chance for him to break away from parental constraints, wi-fi wars and household chores. Although he may have been sorely disappointed with the latter two! Scouts have to prepare meals and wash up afterwards you know, and although the technology is available it was banned and a 'no mobile phones' order was firmly in place. No need for concern though, mid-week phone calls home were made available for those who needed the security of touching base with home, restoring confidence and equilibrium until once more into the fray they ventured.

Ultimately a good time was had. Adventures into the Alps, hiking higher and higher and viewing things the budding geologist never thought he'd see for real. Like glaciers for example. I bet he went looking for dinosaur fossils too, no doubt hoping to share the genealogy links with his pre-historic mother!




He has since happily returned to the familiarity of home, a little older and a little wiser in lots of little ways. With all manner of life skills learned and a willingness to share them. He enjoyed his break and his freedom. As did his parents, it must be said.

But it is really good to have him back home, as we continue on with our summer school holidays. There are undoubtedly plenty more walks and talks to be had and enjoyed in the weeks that remain.

And it's very true what they say you know......

Absence does indeed make the heart burst grow fonder :-)



Thursday, July 10, 2014

Lost In The Woods.....


'Be prepared .... my ass'  I mumbled to myself as I stumbled along behind my Teen Boy scout, who led the way along the rough pathway strewn with gnarled roots that went deeper and deeper into the forest. We'd wandered uphill and downhill and all around the woods until we no longer knew in which direction we were headed.

We were getting hopelessly lost it seemed.

Now maybe you haven't even noticed but I haven't been around much on social media sites in recent weeks. I'd like to say that 'I've been busy house cleaning, campaigning, being a taxi-mum and generally saving the world' and such like but the truth of the matter is I've been busy enjoying the summer sun; while uttering the odd 'get out of that bed...... NOW' admonishment up the stairs to my ever-sleeping night owl of a Teen Boy. I was about to re-assure any of you who did notice my absence that I hadn't gone missing-in-action.

Except that now it seemed that's exactly what was going to happen. And no-one would know!

My ever-slumbering teen has suddenly become very active you see and I've been dragged on park walks, to teen gyms and on late evening beach strolls of late.

And on forest walks. That had ne'er a signpost nor any indication of which direction one should be headed.

Not that the Teen Boy scout was in anyway concerned as he confidently strolled on ahead.





At one stage we came level with and looked out on a nearby golf course, only to look down on it from a great height a mere ten minutes later. Some time after that we heard the familiar sound of the N.11 dual carriageway motoring along from way, way below us. Only problem was, it was coming from the opposite direction from where we thought it should be coming from!

Very disorientating.

We bravely continued on, enjoying the peace and greenery surrounding us - in between (my) intermittent panics that is. Then we stumbled upon a beautiful old ruin and stopped to admire it a while.




We then ignored a nearby downward path and went on our way. Past some very dark and extremely eerie dense sections of forest we hiked.. All that was missing was some spooky mist. On and on we went, further and further away from the motoring sounds that we knew we should be headed towards. It was okay though, scout-mode truly kicked in as sticks were fashioned from large branches and used to indicate where we'd come from, as we veered off the path and the scout went on ahead to, well, scout the way forward. On what seemed to be a promising downward path.

Except that  it wasn't, as my scouting companion nonchalantly advised. Just before he made the executive decision to head back the way we we had traveled.

Back uphill that is, back up past the deep, eerie woodland.

Anything could happen in this deserted and very steep nature reserve, I thought to myself. I mean, this I know - I read many thrillers and watch Law and Order and the like you know. We could end up going home murdered!

But then I saw that my scout still had the big stick he had procured earlier and I had - well, I had a water bottle in one pocket and my phone in the other. With a good aim I could give a good whack on the head to any would-be attacker with the former and summon help with the latter. Or access Google maps.

'YES! Google Maps!!' I excitedly exclaimed. Teen Boy, who was quite content to continue applying his scouting skills, reluctantly agreed to my accessing this genius app. Which I tried to do, only to be stumped at the very last minute by the flashing mini circle of doom, heralding the need to 'recharge your phone...... Now!'

Noooooo.....

Onwards and upwards we trudged, until we came back to the charming ruin. Which now had an ominous feel to it as I pondered the unsavory thought of an impromptu overnight bivouac.

And then we saw him. The man. He appeared out of nowhere, up from the ghostly depths of the dense green foliage sweeping down behind the ruin.

He was swiftly joined by two sweet little dogs, so rather than running back into the deep, deep forest from whence we had stumbled, we willingly went towards him instead.

And thanks to his directions we were back to our car in no time at all, musing over how 'not scared at all' we had been and how we had thoroughly enjoyed our two hour adventure!

All good practice as his imminent real scout mission beckons. Off on a Swiss adventure he goes. With well prepared scout leaders equipped with all required necessities.

And fully charged phones, I hope!




Thursday, June 26, 2014

Orlando Fun: Theme Parks, 'Gators and Space Shuttles..... Oh No!


Oh yes! After many years of enjoying some very affordable and enjoyable Spanish holidays - half-board rocks - this year we swapped the Spanish sun for a similarly priced - without the food - fun holiday in the sunshine state of Florida! Where we bathed in this land of hot sunshine, swaddled in a wet blanket of steaming humidity and drowned  in this world of happy-clappy 'have-a-good-day'-ness. While the humidity was a struggle the happy-clappiness was strangely more uplifting than it was overwhelming!  

We traveled with Virgin Atlantic via the UK; our virgin flight you might say as it was our first time with them, and a very pleasant experience it was too! 

We stayed on International Drive in the rather dated but very clean, comfortable and extremely convenient Rosen Inn at Pointe Orlando. It was perfectly located for all our theme park days and is  right across the road from the intriguing WonderWorks - or 'upside-down house' as we called it!



It was also right across the road from Pizza Hut, which made for very handy take-outs and pizza pyjama parties on the days we were simply too wrecked to go further afield!

With the brilliant nearby I-Ride Trolleys, and its pleasant and helpful drivers and excellent choice of 80's sing-a-long  music; and the free hotel provided shuttle bus service to Universal Studios, there was no need for car hire and stressful driving on this holiday.

It was a relatively short holiday of just 10 days, given the long haul flights, so there was quite a lot to cram in. We attempted a healthy mix of relaxation days and mad theme park ones, and it worked too. Although relaxation days weren't totally spent lolling by the pool. Oh no, it was far too hot and humid for that. The sun screen and lip balm had to be stored in the fridge and still it melted off you almost before you'd even finished applying it! And any wish for a nice, cooling Spanish-like sea breeze was more likely met with a mere shrug of the heavily laden blanket of humidity. No, when all's said and done relaxation days were best spent in the comfort of air-conditioned  rooms. Like having a lazy lunch, with wine of course, in a lovely bar or shopping in some  very cool shops. Cool in air temperature and very cool in bargains too! 

So, do you want to know what we did and where we went? Okay, come along then, no dilly-dallying, keep up, there's lots to see! 

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS

In order to fit in some new sights and experiences for this, our second Orlando visit, we decided to forego the magic of Disney. Sad, I know but the boy is now 14, there's lots of cool teen stuff to do you know! Our first port of call was Universal Studios. 


It was a fun day but after a while the a similarity between the shows and rides becomes evident. 

That said we loved the Transformers ride, it was our favourite, and we really enjoyed the Simpsons Ride too; this had only opened when we were there 6 years ago and was fun to do again. We also got 'done' in this land of donuts and 'Doh'-ness ..... #tip: Avoid the very costly Duff Beer bar! (see below for more Theme park Tips)




ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE

The sister land to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure was all about the more typical theme park rides and featured  the ultra scary The Incredible Hulk Coaster. And no, I didn't do it!

This was a really fun day. The highlights for us were the Popeye and Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges and Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls which involved getting very wet and was very welcome indeed on such a hot day - and no cheating with plastic ponchos for us either! Our absolute highlight though was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Although we're not massive fans of the wizard we did thoroughly enjoy the magic of this land and the thrilling ride.





AIRBOAT SAFARI ON BOGGY CREEK and GATORLAND.

This was something new for us to try and we really enjoyed. it. The airboat safari was only 30 minutes in duration but was so enjoyable. We were on the hunt for some alligators in the wild, but it was such a hot day that these reptiles had more sense than the silly humans and stayed 'indoors'! However we did see some beautiful sights as we floated along this reedy creek.




From there we headed to Gatorland, where there were plenty of 'gators to be seen, including a rare white one, and other creatures too. I think most of our time was spent in the free-flight aviary section, and as a result  I can see a replacement for our beloved Sunny in the very near future!





KENNEDY SPACE CENTRE

Now this was an exciting prospect, our first trip to the Kennedy Space Centre, and as such it was kept until last. It is some distance away but transport was included in our ticket price. We were 'entertained' by our humorous Guide on the long ride way there and by a movie, and a spectacular thunder and lightning storm, on our return.

We really enjoyed the Apollo/Saturn V and Atlantis exhibits, they were fascinating, and the shuttle simulator was thrilling. I particularly loved the bus tour and was mesmerised by this launch pad that saw off every flight to the moon that ever was, and is due to be dismantled soon. I'm so glad I got to see it up close....




It was a very long day, the last one of all our long days and thunder roared as lightning flashed, amid torrential rain, as we returned to the hotel. To say we were tired would be an under-statement. So, my Dizzy Jazzy-ness was not appreciated when in the space of 10 minutes I managed to lose the room key, almost blow up my hair straightener - almost setting the room on fire in the process - and smash a three-quarter full bottle of Chanel No.5 perfume on  the tiled bathroom floor - 'Noooooooo.......'. 
I could have cried. Instead I had a particularly large glass of wine, accompanied by an equally large bar of Hersheys chocolate!

All that was left to do the day after that was another quick trip to the Premium Outlet Mall and packing up for the long haul flight home. Oh, and a quick trip in to see whatever wonders the WonderWorks building concealed. Isn't it typical that the one thing that's bound to be last on the to-do- list is the one that's closest to you?! it's worth noting that when you're rushed and only have an hour to view before being whisked off to the airport, then the man will take you out of the queue and send you upstairs to the basement - 'upside-down house' remember, stay with me now! - where you can just pay for the things you want to do on that floor. #Tip: you do not have to pay for both of you to do Laser Tag, yet another 3D show and rope climbing! Sigh.... well, I paid so I did them. But I did chicken out of the rope climbing, even though I was all wired up. Seemed like the best thing to do, clinging to a pillar for dear life is not a good look!

Actually there was one other thing we needed to do on that final day, and that was to enjoy one final sunrise. The beauty of staying on the top floor was opening your door to this every morning....





So, that's it! I hope his has given you a flavour of our fabulous Orlando holiday :-)






Theme Park Tips: 

*When you get your tickets, or redeem your vouchers for tickets, the first thing to do is to take photos of the reverse side of them. This will suffice in the panicky event of losing them.
*No need to bring your passports when purchasing/redeeming vouchers on your first day. A photocopy of the lead person's passport will suffice and your hotel will be happy to do that for you.
*Food and drink can be expensive at the parks so bring water with you as that will cover the first hour or too. It's too hot to eat loads so share. A portion of chicken tenders and chips was perfect for me and the boy to share.
*Drinking plenty of water is good, especially early on. Then you can afford one early afternoon refreshing cold beer!
*Humidity is a lot less from October to May so that's the best time to travel to Orlando. No time to recover before going back to school though!
*Wear good walking shoes. 
 *Don't forget the sun sunscreen!
                         


Friday, May 30, 2014

The Little Girl........ and The Petition.


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....


Do you?


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Fight for Supported Inclusion for Children with Special Education Needs .....


Successive Governments have encouraged the inclusion of Special Needs Children, where possible, in mainstream schools for many years now. Thankfully, as a result, more and more children are taking this inclusive route every year. And it can be very successful too, enriching the lives of ALL the children in the school, as this video from We Care Do You demonstrates ...




The thing is, this inclusion can only be successful if properly supported by trained and up-skilled SNAs and Resource/Learning Support Teachers. Although successive Governments have encouraged this inclusion they have also successively and increasingly cut-back on these available supports.

Every time they do this, schools rush to to re-arrange and re-schedule in a desperate attempt to spread their increasingly reduced and precious resources, to ensure that every child who needs help gets at least some. As SNAs are a school resource, and not assigned to specific pupils, this means SNAs being shared among an increasing number of pupils, and spreading themselves very thinly as they rush from class to class to give support. While successive governments may think that this is value-for-money productivity at it's best they have forgotten one tiny little fact: children with Special Needs can't always schedule their difficulties to occur to suit these shared timetables.

Sadly, our Government have recently issued circular 0030/2014 which proposes even more cuts in this area, with effect from September 2014.

This has caused upset and disbelief for many teachers, parents and support groups around the country. And not without good reason.

Teacher Catherina Woods, who is also a mum to two children with Special Needs, wrote this eloquent letter to the Irish Times last week and also this article for The Journal.ie. She explains the impact these cuts will have in the classroom very well. This Voice For Teachers Blog explains it well too.

I am not a teacher, just a concerned parent; albeit one who has successfully navigated this inclusion route. Well so far anyway, we haven't quite reached the end of our road yet. I have read the above mentioned circular in depth and all the articles too,  and it is clear to me (and to others) that these cuts, being sold under the guise of being 'value-for-money', will have a devastating impact on ALL children in our education system.

The highlights for me are:

* Children must have an assessed disability with significant Primary Care Needs requiring assistance which must be 'way beyond that which would normally be provided by the class teacher, support teacher or other school teachers or by their fellow pupils in school'?! (Really?)

Children with behaviour related care needs will only qualify for an SNA if they have a separate Emotional Behavioural  Disorder/Severe Emotional Behavioural Disorder diagnosis - in conjunction with another disability. And let's not forget:  "SNA support should only be provided where it is clear that 
behavioural management strategies have not been successful to date and where it is 
demonstrated how access to such support can assist with ongoing planning and intervention for the child"

* Children must be "enrolled and have commenced attending school before any application for support will be made"

* The over-all responsibility for ensuring "that each pupil is taught in a stimulating and supportive classroom environment" lies with the class room teacher and that they have "a central role in identifying and responding to pupils with additional needs."

All SNA allocations will be time bound, made initially for a 3 year period, with annual reviews. And the child's Independence will be assisted by cutting back on SNA support from 4th class onwards, in preparation for Secondary school.

* As a result of the above it would seem that the child attending post-primary will then be fully independent and not in need of any SNA support unless they have "chronic and serious care needs". Instead support "will  be a combination of differentiated and additional teaching supports from class teachers, from resource/learning support teachers either though team teaching or withdrawal, and from other relevant teaching staff, as opposed to care support from an SNA." (Good luck with that....)

* "The views of the child, where possible, should therefore be taken into account in reviewing the 
extent of access to SNA support required." I agree with the child's views being considered, at second level, but they should be considered in conjunction with what's best for the child. And let's hope that  GPs and hospital doctors and surgeons don't adopt this principal.

The DES may be adamant that this circular does not mean cuts but it is hard to see how making it more difficult to access these supports does not mean a reduction in SNA posts.

Once again the barriers to even applying for this necessary and worthwhile support have been steel-edged and erected even higher than before. In particular the child in Junior Infants, and the one with challenging behaviour at any age,  must fail in order to even apply. And the classroom teacher is responsible for dealing with this while also educating them and all the other children in the classroom. I specifically worry about the child with Aspergers or Autistic Spectrum Disorder who's communication deficit causes behavioural difficulties (i.e. meltdowns) but who doesn't have a separate EBD/SEBD diagnosis, or care needs that meet the criteria.

I very much worry about the children with Special Needs attending mainstream post-primary school. For some the assistance of the Special Needs Department (if it's properly resourced with interested and up-skilled teachers) will be sufficient, but for some it will not. Independence skills may come with their growing maturity but very often so does increased anxiety levels, with high levels of school refusals and ultimate drop-outs. There is data for the former but not the latter, so I believe. Also, secondary school is far less forgiving on children with Aspergers and ASD, believe me. They will help as much as they can but ultimately their priority concern will be for the greater good.

I also worry about how far-reaching the effects of these cuts will be. Will mainstream schools cope by raising the criteria for admitting children with Special Education Needs? In which case further demand will be put on Special Needs schools, many of whom are closing or have their own admittance criteria, and are far more expensive to provide than SNAs. Will we see an increase in  the abusive use of Inclusion rooms in an effort to manage challenging behaviours? Will these cuts ultimately cause a divide between parents who have children in school with no Special Needs and those who do? And what is to happen to the teenagers who can't cope and end up quitting school entirely? Will they become dependent on our difficult to access Mental Health Services, or on substances they shouldn't? Or will they become misunderstood, juvenile delinquents in trouble with the law? And will we have the 'value-for-money' financial resources to deal with that?

This circular is yet again tightening up the rules and criteria surrounding entitlement to SNA support and 'restating and clarifying' the purpose of this scheme 'for both parents and schools'. In case any of us have forgotten: The purpose of the SNA scheme is to provide for the SIGNIFICANT CARE NEEDS which some people with Special Education Needs may have'.

And right there, in my honest opinion, is the problem.... and the possible solution. I said it before and now I'll say it again: They keep pulling this scheme back to how it was initially set up and tightening the rules to exclude more and more children who don't have 'significant care needs'. They are increasingly setting the children with SEN up to fail. Here's a radical thought: How about accepting the changes that have organically occurred to this scheme over the years, and extend it to facilitate the changing needs of the children who are now availing of inclusion in mainstream education? After all it has been very successful, as the above video - just one little example -demonstrates. Perhaps the DES and the HSE could even find a way to work together to provide the education and clinical interventions that these children need, instead of both constantly cutting these supports, without giving due consideration to the over-all devastating impact their changes can have.

If you have a child (or grandchild, niece or nephew) in school or due to start school in the next few years then this very much concerns YOU.  We need to continue to make very loud noises to keep this issue on the front page.

We Care Do You are very much trying to do that, they even have an online petition for signing.

They really do care.

Do you?


xx




NOTES

* I discussed the changes that the last DES circular in 2011 brought in my Dear Minister post, it is interesting to note that they seem to have 'cleared up' the misinterpreting of the care needs surrounding behavioural issues by inserting the 'EBD/SEBD' diagnosis stipulation.

* I shared The Story of the SNA who lost her job in 2011 here and the SNA who stayed behind here. The latter confirms my point about SNA sharing. 



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