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Children with intellectual disabilities are missing school

Inclusion Ireland conducted a survey of 733 parents of children with disabilities who are trying to home educate.

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(Jon Challicom/NSPCC)

(Jon Challicom/NSPCC)

(Jon Challicom/NSPCC)

Children with intellectual disabilities and autism are missing school as parents struggle to provide education, a survey has found.

For children with complex behaviour and medical needs, home education is “very difficult or non-existent”.

Inclusion Ireland conducted a survey of 733 parents of children with disabilities who are trying to home educate.

Some of the parents were working from home, work on the front line and are isolating at home or minding other children or elderly adults.

The survey found that the experience of parents across the country varies widely, with some children having daily class via Zoom and access to educational materials and smart applications from their teacher, but some other children are having no contact or education provision.

The survey also found that a small group of children who have no access to any form of technology to engage in virtual/online schoolwork.

There is also a group of children with complex needs who cannot access education, unless it is provided in person – and for these children, education has stopped.

Enda Egan, CEO of Inclusion Ireland, said: “Home education is not working well for most families who have a child with an intellectual disability or autism.

“There are huge barriers to educating at home for parents, who are not teachers in most cases.

“Some parents state that their child presents with behaviours that can be a challenge or have poor attention skills that require the support of a skilled teacher and not a parent.”

Slightly more than 10% have no access to any technology at all for schoolwork.

“These children need to be supported immediately by the Department of Education and Skills with a technology solution or direct access to teaching as they have no access to education at present,” Mr Egan added.

Most families have access to some form of technology such as a laptop, smartphone or iPad to access schoolwork, but this is often shared with a sibling or parent.

Also, 45% of respondents do not have access to high-speed broadband, meaning no access to the internet or access only through 4G.

Mr Egan added: “Inclusion Ireland was seeking an urgent meeting with Minister for Education Joe McHugh to discuss the emerging crisis in special education.

“Children with disabilities require a range of supports including virtual or 1:1 access to a teacher (when public health allows), speech therapy, occupational therapy, technology for remote learning, lesson plans from the child’s Individual Education Plan and educational materials such as work sheets, arts and crafts.”

PA