School year ends in frustration for parents of special needs students

SURREY (NEWS 1130) – As this school year comes to a close, parents of special needs students are reflecting on how the shortage of teachers in BC has translated into fewer hours of individual assistance for their kids.

“It’s critical now. It was bad before, but it’s ten time worse now,” says Naomi McCann, whose son is supposed to be spending his final days in a Grade 5 class in Surrey with his peers, but instead is at home.

She says her son has a number of designations: he has autism and has ADHD, anxiety and a sensory processing disorder.

“He’s violent. I’m not going to sugar-coat it. He has thrown furniture. He’s so volatile they can’t have him in class anymore.”

She says her son had a full time educational assistant (EA) up until they moved to Surrey from Vancouver last September. She was shocked when her son was initially not assigned an EA, but was eventually paired up with one on a part-time basis.

“He didn’t attend school in the month of December,” McCann points out, because he refused to.

“There hasn’t been consistency with workers. When they do find a good fit, the worker goes to another classroom, because of the shortage of EAs the principal has to pull the EA to give to somebody else.”

She sympathizes with the school district about the teacher shortage – to a point.

“My son still has a right to be at school and to be educated. This is not my son’s fault. My son didn’t ask to have autism.”

And what will the new school year bring?

“I don’t have hope. The school district says it’s working on a plan. But we’ve been at this since last September,” she says.

For its part, the Surrey school district says it has 3,000 special needs students, and that parents who are unhappy with their kids’ education plan can appeal.

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