Special needs

Keep kids with special needs in the classroom

Anchel Krishna responds to a recent report that reveals many principals are asking parents to keep their kids with special needs at home.

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Syona. Photo: Anchel Krishna

Follow along as Anchel Krishna shares her experiences as mother to Syona, an extraordinary toddler with cerebral palsy.

Last week, my social media feeds were filled with reports that half of the principals across Ontario have asked parents to keep children at home because they couldn’t accommodate their special education needs. Based on a survey conducted by People for Education the results were reported, re-reported and responded to across just about every major media outlet.

We start the official school years with Syona in the fall. It’s been a busy year as the transition to school process started for us in January. We’ve been fortunate. Our interactions up until now have been primarily positive. I know there will be tough things to work through but I always start with the mindset that we’re on the same team and everyone is doing the best they can, and that we can find solutions to just about every problem together if we treat one another with respect.

The stories about the People for Education survey results focused on resources being tight. This is not a new story, and there is no doubt in my mind that there are not enough properly allocated resources. But what I wanted to know more about was the parent experience behind all of this. Had any of my online pals who have kids with various special needs experienced anything similar? What did they think? What was their take? Because the truth of it is that every single kid’s experience is different—what works for one kid may not work for the other. Here are their stories, thoughts and feedback:

“Our experience was the exact opposite. Joey was in the very first cohort of full-day kindergarten and I wanted to ease him in slowly. It was the teachers, principal, special education resource teacher and educational assistant that pushed me out of my comfort zone and provided the support he needed to be there all day, every day. They were right. He handled the transition like a champ and we were extremely pleased.”

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This mom wasn’t the only one who thought a full day at school would be too tough for their kiddo and were pleasantly surprised when their child did well.

Another woman shared a story about how her son’s school recommended he stay home one day because there was a school-wide event and they weren’t sure how he would handle it. The mom went along with it because their logic made sense. In retrospect she realized that they asked her to keep her son home because it would be easier for the school officials. In reality, they could have made some simple accommodations to have her son attend the event.

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Other parents have expressed that sometimes kids have behaviours that can create unsafe environments for others and the resources needed to deal with those behaviours can be a challenge. Some parents wished the school day was more flexible, as their kid benefitted from a shortened day. Others discussed the logistics around providing care for a child during the periods where they were asked to stay home from school.

As I imagined, there was a huge mix of responses. Each one left me convinced of my approach to Syona’s transition to school: transparency, respect and teamwork. I hope that is enough.

What do you think of the recent survey results?