Inclusion Ireland is gravely concerned about the education of children with intellectual disabilities and autism during the COVID-19 crisis.
During the week April 30 to May 7, Inclusion Ireland conducted a survey of parents of children with disabilities who are trying to home-educate. 733 parents responded.
Results of the survey indicate that children with intellectual disabilities and autism are missing school a lot.
Despite the best efforts of parents and teachers, home education is very difficult or non-existent for children with complex behaviour and medical needs.
Moreover, the experience of parents varies widely across the country, with some children having daily classes via Zoom and access to educational materials and smart applications from their teacher, and other children having no contact with their teacher and no education provision.
Parents are struggling to provide any form of education to disabled children while also trying to work from home, work on the front line, isolate at home, or mind other children or elderly adults.
Commenting on the survey results, 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 may have poor attention skills that require the support of a skilled teacher and not a parent.
“Slightly more than 10% (or 76 respondents) 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.
“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 which means they cannot access the internet or can only access it through costly 4G.
“Inclusion Ireland is 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 worksheets, arts and crafts,” Mr Egan said.