Parents of special needs kids coming together in challenging times

RICHMOND (NEWS 1130) – Well into the second month of school, special needs students are especially feeling the impact of BC’s teacher shortage.

“At this point, we still have kids who aren’t going to school, and we are getting schools being sent home because they just don’t have the support staff to manage them,” says Tracy Humphreys with BC Ed Access, short for BC Parents of Children with Special Needs – Action for Equitable Access to Education.

She points out the new requirement for smaller class sizes didn’t come with any funding for extra support staff, and in some districts the number of special education teachers has been reduced.

Unfortunately, parents with special needs are familiar with the challenges inherent in the public school system.

On Saturday, parents of special needs kids are being invited to a workshop designed to give them tips on how to best advocate for their kids as they attend public school.

The headaches, Humphreys says, start even before their kids are deemed ‘special needs.’

“It can be months or years before a child can get an assessment. There are students who don’t get any support at all, even if they have a designation. Then there are kids with ADHD, whose condition is not recognized.”

After that, it’s wading through the terminology. Different districts have different collective agreements spelling out what kind of support is available for special needs kids, and special needs teachers are referred to by different titles, again depending on the district.

Parents need to learn who to go to in the school and at the district level to get the best support for their child.

Humphreys says ultimately parents need to know that their kids have a right to an education, and as the Ministry of Education’s policy for students with special needs states: “All students should have equitable access to learning, opportunities for achievement and the pursuit of excellence in all aspects of their educational programs.”

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