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When your child is starting school, it can be exciting and stressful at the same time. You will have so many questions but please don’t wait until the first day of school to do all this. If you haven’t done so already, make contact by phone or email to the school that your child is going to attend (primary or secondary), as most school principals and secretaries are back in early August.

If you have another child attending the school already, it will, of course, be easier. By now, you will have weighed up the pros and cons of sending your child to a “normal school” or a school that caters only for children with different abilities or again a school that has a unit that will look after your child. This is a big decision for you and your child. When I was doing this for David, as he was my firstborn, I asked advice from his physiologist as to what she would recommend. Taking that on board and conversations with family and other therapists in David’s life, a decision was made.

As the physiologist was writing up the report, which took months, I started looking at a list of schools. Again, this had to be done when David was moving to secondary school. A copy is sent to the school and one to the parents.

Just a little tip for you here:

I like to meet with the physiologist when they have the report written to go over it with a fine-tooth comb before it is sent to the school, so everything is explained to me, what and why recommendations have been made. I felt this made a big difference, and I had no surprises as I knew all the information in the report.

I went to each school I thought would meet David’s needs and called in for an appointment with the principal; while doing this, I looked at the access from a child who is a wheelchair user. I was informed that a school would get funding to change its building to accommodate David’s needs if required.

We all have aspirations for our children. Some of them can be unrealistic, so it is important to take on any advice from the professionals as you also want your child to reach their full capabilities. It’s a fine line, but trust yourself in knowing what is best for your child.

One piece of advice I was given was I should choose a small school with boys and girls. I did, and it was great advice. I tried to start this process around two years before he started school.

Some parents believe (and it is correct) that you can send your child to whatever school you like as long as your child has the ability to learn. But after listening to parents over the years, some have said it was hell from the moment they met with the principal.

So, with this in mind, I choose the school that I felt showed a considerable amount of attention to my application, who met me for an appointment and explained what they could offer David. I choose a school with a principal I could speak openly to, who showed me around the school and I saw her interactions with staff and students. I then brought David to meet her, and he was shown around the classroom and met with resource teachers, etc. I explained what I thought he needed, explained his strengths which was all listened to. She explained how she would apply for a special need’s assistance. This was a worry for me as I explained whoever she choose could make or break David’s experience in school, and I felt she needed someone with a lot of patience!!

But I wasn’t let down as David has had the best special needs assistance in the world; it was like handing him over to a guardian angel. They enhanced David’s school days, and I was never worried about him when they were around. We built up a great relationship from the beginning, and we never left any stone unturned concerning his schooling as David was not the easiest as he has quite a stubborn streak (I have no idea where he gets it from!!).

The physiologist report was sent to the school and a letter to say the team David was attending would also like to come to the school with permission to see if David needed aids or appliances to help him in a school setting. We also had meetings with his speech and language team and his physiologist, which was all done in a group setting.

When I write this, I don’t want to give off the wrong impression, as it was hard work; it was child-centred and David and I were very lucky. By the way, I had these Individual Education Plan (IEP) at least once a year with David’s team.

Below is information regarding SNA support, so do have a look at its recommendations. If I can be of any assistance to you don’t hesitate in contacting me on 086 0236995.

Dolores.

“You don’t have to apply for your child to have access to SNA support – the school will make the application for your child, with your permission. of your child’s care needs. is necessary and the benefits that your child would gain from such care support in a school setting.

Which students can access SNA support? 

Students who may be approved access to SNA support are those: ■ who have significant care needs arising from a disability or medical condition; and ■ whose professional reports indicate that the student’s care needs are so significant that they will need adult assistance in order to be able to attend school and to take part in education. These are students who require more care support than can be given by the class/subject teacher or by other staff or students in the school or by using assistive technology or by adapting the school building.”

There is a great booklet for Special Needs Assistant (SNA) Scheme for Parents of Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs. The aim of this pamphlet is to inform parents and guardians about the SNA scheme in schools:

https://ncse.ie/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/NCSE-SNA-Scheme-Information-Pamphlet.FINALwebaccessibleversion.16.01.151.pdf