Thursday September 21, 2017

Education system failing kids with special needs, say parents

With inclusivity being embraced more broadly by the public school systems across the country, many schools are struggling to meet the needs of students with special needs.

With inclusivity being embraced more broadly by the public school systems across the country, many schools are struggling to meet the needs of students with special needs. (Shutterstock)

Listen 19:26

A Hamilton, Ont., mother says she's finding she can't get the support her autistic son needs to succeed in his public school.

"I want him to succeed in life. I want him to probably go to college and the way it is right now, he won't be able to," she says.

Many other parents feel the same lack of trust in the public school system and argue inclusive classrooms don't serve the needs of children with learning disabilities and autism.

Jennifer Clowes, a mother of two sons with learning disabilities and ADHD, who are also both gifted, says one of the big problems is teachers need education — "new teachers coming in need an expanded curriculum."

"Resources from the Ministry of Education are paramount," she adds.

student sitting at their desks  and  raise their hands in a classroom.

Jennifer Clowes, a mother of two sons with learning disabilities and ADHD, says students with special needs just need to be feel supported by people who understand them. (Shutterstock)

Clowes argues what is needed is a big paradigm shift in terms of how educators view disabilities.

"Autism is not Rainman. Giftedness is not this genius in the classroom. My gifted kids are not geniuses in the classroom. They're really, really bright in certain areas but they are not high achievers in the classroom," she tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"We've had teachers say, 'You're in the gifted program, why are you failing my class then?' and that's not helpful for anybody. These kids are trying as hard as they can and they just need to be supported by people who really understand them."

Chantelle Morvay-Adams, who is also a mother of a special needs child, agrees education is important and can address the biases that she says still exist towards people with special needs.

"I myself have started the inclusion subcommittee at my school to help support all our children that are different — our diversity."

Morvay-Adams suggests professionals that work with special needs children need to be properly trained.

"Everybody that works in the school system would really benefit from having, not just a voluntary class, but a class that you have to take that is about our children because you can't help them if you don't know them."

Teacher assistant layoffs

A Toronto-area teachers' union launched a campaign in Sept. asking for more classroom support for special needs students. (Shutterstock/Syda Productions)

When teachers are struggling with their students, Clowes calls on those educators to make their voices known.

"They need to be brave enough to push up to their superiors to ask for help," she tells Tremonti.

"And if they can't get it from their superior, they need to go up and then the next person needs to go up and the next person needs to go up. People need to hear this. It can't just be the parents."

Morvay-Adams says a public school system needs to be accessible to all students.

"Our children have the right to an equitable ... quality education."

Listen to the full segment near the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Willow Smith, Samira Mohyeddin and Mac Cameron.