Thursday, September 12, 2013

Down Syndrome children won’t take 'No' for an answer

By not classifying Down Syndrome as a disability, children are suffering

Fine Gael TD for Meath East and Chairperson of the Cross Party Committee on Equality of Education for Down Syndrome Children, Regina Doherty, has today (Thursday) described the situation where 219 children with Down Syndrome in this country are being denied access to supports in their classroom as outrageous.

Deputy Doherty was speaking following a presentation to the Oireachtas Education Committee by Professor Sue Buckley who has over 40 years’ experience in this area. Professor Buckley outlined to the Committee that if these children don’t get access to special needs services now, they will fall out of the system and end up in special schools.

“We have a duty of care in this country to ensure that each and every citizen has access to the supports they need in order for them to obtain an education. There are 219 children in this country who have been denied access to much needed supports in the form of special needs assistants to assist them in their schooling, because Down Syndrome is not classified as a disability in its own right.

“It is imperative that we change the status of Down Syndrome to a low incidence disability as a matter of urgency, so that children entering the new school year have access to the support they need to get an education.

“Autism has recently been classified as a low incidence disability as there are 1 in 100 children born with autism in this country. Down syndrome, however, has not been classified as a low incidence disability, despite figures showing that only 1 in 500 children are born with this disability.

“Professor Buckley advised the Oireachtas Committee this week that, by not having Down Syndrome classified as a low incidence disability, it will result in children with this disability drowning in the system and ultimately ending up in special schools, which would cost significantly more than providing a special needs assistant in the first place.

“We also have no idea how many people in this country have Down Syndrome, as we have no way of capturing this data as it is not classified as a disability in its own right or captured in the census.

“It is high time we addressed this imbalance and provide the much needed resources to all children with Down Syndrome, so that they can avail of an education like every other child in this country.”


Nick McGivney said...

Thank you. We need, as with many other groups, to be pulled in from the margins. This is helpful.

Anonymous said...

Great you are highlighting the discrimination faced by pupils with Down syndrome in mainstream schools and thank you for doing so. However the issue that parents of pupils with DS and Down Syndrome Ireland are trying to highlight is that lack of access to resource hours. Pupils with DS may have the support of an SNA to assist with care needs. However they do not have an entitlement to resource teaching unless they have a second disability from the low incidence disability list.
Resource teachers and special needs assistants fulfil very different roles. Also , children with Trisomy 21 HAVE Down syndrome, they are NOT " Down Syndrome Children ".... They are children first and foremost.
We wont take no for an answer though and we hope that the support of politicians such as you will help getting DS recognised as the disability which it unquestionably is, by the Department of Education and Skills.

Cathal's Mammy said...

Thank you for highlighting this issue. My son is one of the children who is not receiving any resource hours, because even though he has Down Syndrome, he does not have a Low Incedent disability. He has had 6 years of early intervention, one on one support which has worked, and now, because he is doing too well, those supports have been taken away from him just because he is going to main stream primary school with his peers. We as parents will keep fighting for this issue to be resolved.