SILENT PROTEST OVER SNA CUTS AT ARAGLIN NS
A larger group of parents held a silent protest at Araglin National School this week to highlight one child’s need for a special needs assistant (SNA). Zoe Byron O’Connor (7) has just moved to first class at Araglin NS after completing her first two years with an SNA.
Her mother spoke to The Avondhu on Tuesday morning last before Zoe left for school, “Zoe, who has Down Syndrome, has had a full-time SNA since starting school two years ago. The SNA’s hours have now been cut to just one hour a day. We were not informed of this decision by the school principal or the SENO, Maria Moriarty but by Zoe’s SNA, who was told in the playground,” Annabel said.
“There was no parent consultation before this decision was made and we believe that this was deliberately done so we would not be able to argue Zoe’s case, before the end of term. Maria Moriarty’s observation record, that we were eventually allowed to see on July 7 after the school had closed for the summer, states she had a professional report including a conversation with the clinical psychologist. Why did she not then follow his advice and instead do the complete opposite?” Annabel asked.
One hour a day Zoe’s SNA would stay with her during class to help with her books and to supervise toilet breaks and playground time. However, as of September 1 the SNA will only be available for one hour a day.
“This decision goes against all professional advice and all advice from the people who know our child best, Zoe’s health and safety issues have been ignored. She needs adult supervision going to the toilet; she is yet to develop an internal motivation to go to the toilet and would consistently say she does not need to go even when she clearly has to.
"She cannot blow her own nose, her speech is extremely limited and her danger awareness is also very limited. Who will be there for Zoe when they go swimming every Friday on the bus to and from and in the pool,” Annabel asked.
LETTER FROM PSYCHOLOGIST
A letter from Zoe’s clinical psychologist stated, ‘I would have to question the motives and judgment of a person who would suggest that Zoe’s SNA hours be cut, in particular considering not only the above needs but also the fact she is about to transfer to a more challenging environment with more children and greater social/academic demands.
"Zoe’s reliance on her SNA is not artificially created, but directly based on her actual needs. Greater independence can definitely be scaffolded over time, however simply removing this support at a whim is setting her up to fail’.
QUESTIONS NOT ANSWERED
Annabel further commented, “ As Zoe’s parents, we feel our concerns and questions have not been answered. The SENO (Special education needs organiser) told us she based her decision on what the school told her. The school has told us the decision is up to the SENO. The chairman of the board of management told us he could do nothing and that it was down to the principal. The Department of Education said they would pass the letter to the National Council for Special Education.”
“We have not heard from the NCSE. We are extremely worried and concerned as parents that Zoe’s care needs will not be met and that she will regress if left to her own devices.
"She is in a class of 26 now where the teacher is running 4 different curriculums, how in this situation can you guarantee the safety and care needs of one child with special needs. We find it incomprehensible that anyone could be so irresponsible or at best naive as to risk all that Zoe has achieved to date because they simply don’t need an SNA in the school.”
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank the whole of the Araglin community for their unflinching support and energy. It has kept us going through a very difficult time and we cannot express our gratitude enough,” Zoe’s mother concluded.
The Avondhu contacted Araglin National School and spoke to the principal Mrs Childs, who said that she was unable to comment.
Thursday 2nd September 6:47pm