Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

14.01 8 Jan 2021


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A mother of a child with special needs says the closure of schools leaves her in a 'terrible position' - saying she had 'no other option' but to bring her children to work with her yesterday.

It was initially announced that special needs students would be able to return to school next week, along with Leaving Cert students.

However, the Government last night reversed that decision amid a backlash from teachers, parents, students and opposition parties.

In the wake of the U-turn, a number of groups have raised concerns that children with special educational needs will regress if remote learning is the only option available to them this month.

Inclusion Ireland, for example, says remote learning isn't suitable for approximately 60% of special needs students in Ireland.

Siobhan - not her real name - is a single mother with two children, one of whom is a 12-year-old with special needs.

She told Lunchtime Live she couldn't sleep last night thinking about the current situation.

Parents of children with special needs say school closures leave them in 'terrible position'

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She said: "It puts me in a terrible position - I'm an essential worker, and I've been working from March right through.

"Yesterday I had to bring the kids into work with me... I had no other option.

"I'm a single parent, I don't have anyone else to mind them - my father died last year, and my mother has cancer. I don’t have family around."

She suggested "it's a very small group of children" who absolutely need the supports offered by special needs education even during the current health crisis.

She said: "My 12-year-old with special needs... intellectually he's around three.

"He has autism, intellectual disability, Down's Syndrome... he needs the consistency and structure of school."

Remote learning 'not an option'

Siobhan said remote learning simply isn't suitable for her son, and she was "delighted" when the announcement came that special needs classes would resume.

However, with the reversal of the decision, she said there are some parents "who would do anything" to have some classes resume for their children.

She said she'd be happy to take half days just to 'stop him from regressing' and be able to return to school at some capacity.

Pat, meanwhile, also spoke to the show - and he's a parent of two children with additional needs.

He said he "fully echoed" everything Siobhan said, and they were delighted that schools were reopening.

He said the conversation around the issue seems to have been taken over by the debate around Leaving Cert students, and that 'special needs weren't really mentioned'.

Pat added that there's 'no alternative' for impacted children, and online learning simply isn't an option.

Main image: File photo. Picture by: Dominic Lipinski/PA Archive/PA Images

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