Speaker: Moire Leydon, Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland
Jennifer Duffy, Advisor to ASTI/ Learning Support Teacher
In their presentation, Moire Leydon and Jennifer Duffy identified some of the main challenges faced by the teaching profession in order to truly provide an inclusive environment for students with special education needs.
Challenges for subject teachers include: identifying students who may be at risk; meeting the needs of all students in the classroom including those who are high achievers, middle ground and those with special education needs; completing the curriculum requirements; being inclusive in the classroom; engaging with parents; and creating a positive learning environment.
Challenges for learning support teachers are similar to those cited above. They must achieve a positive attitude within the school; avoid negative stigma and prejudices against students with special needs; assist students with special needs to develop positive self-esteem; provide two-way communication on the progress and development of the student with the subject teachers; work effectively and collaborate with other professionals (i.e. speech therapists, NEPS psychologists, etc.); and facilitate communication with parents on a regular basis.
All teachers involved with students with special needs must adapt a holistic approach to assisting the development of the student. They must take into consideration the environmental, educational, cognitive, social, emotional, economic, health, functional and vocational impacts on the lives of the students.
The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) has drafted guidelines to assist teachers to help students with general learning difficulties. These guidelines were drawn from best current practices in Ireland and internationally. They also reflect the Education for Persons with Special Education Needs Act 2004.
The Education for Persons with Special Education Needs Act 2004 marks a major milestone in providing for students with special education needs to acquire an appropriate education. The Act places strong emphasis on inclusion in the classroom and in the school. The Act requires each student to be assessed and to have an independent education plan (IEP), and that this plan be enforced. The relevant Health Board, the National Council for Special Education or the parent of the child can request an assessment.
The assessment must contain an evaluation of the nature of the disability, a statement of the nature of the disability and an evaluation and statement of the services needed by the child. The assessment must be carried out within one month by the appropriate professionals i.e. psychologist, medical expert, school principal, or qualified therapist.
The Council and Health Board may refuse assessments based on insufficient evidence that an assessment is required, or if an assessment had already been carried out in the previous 12 months. If the Council or the Health Board refuse assessment, the parent of the child may appeal the decision to an Appeals Board. The Board may allow the appeal whereby the assessment would take place, or dismiss the appeal whereby there would be no assessment granted to the child.
Following the assessment, if the child is not a student, the relevant Health Board has the responsibility to ensure the child receives the services deemed appropriate to the child. If the child is a student, the Council will take responsibility to deliver services to the child so that he/she can reach his/her full potential. However, if there is a dispute between the Council and the Health Board over who should provide the child with the necessary services, the Appeal Board will hear the case and decide within two months. During the appeal process, there may be no delay in providing the child the appropriate services.