Jul 2, 2011
Special Needs and Independence
Today, as so many of my friends prepare to celebrate American Independence day, I have been thinking about independence and what it means to me on a more personal level.
Lots of you already know about my son and have read some of my previous posts about our lives and living with Autism in the family. For families like mine life is an up hill struggle every day toward independence. Everything I do and every choice I have made for well over a decade has been underlined with the silent question, “How will this affect Eric?” This is all done with the ultimate goal of having some level of independence for my son. I know I’m not alone in this battle. I share it with lots of people around the globe.
You see, the thing about AS is there are so many unknowns. But, there is one thing we know for sure and that is education and therapies work. A person living with AS does have the ability to learn and adapt. In a lot of cases AS can work to their advantage in learning because they can be so determined. They will do it over and over until it comes right. Sometimes a task will take longer. More patience and more assistance is required but isn’t it worth it to help any child reach their potential? To help them realize the dream of independent living?
The other thing about AS is it doesn’t get better on it’s own. An AS child will not grow out of their behaviours or become active and independent adult members of society on their own. If they don’t, what happens to them then? Surely it’s easy to see how important it is for governments to invest in their future now, so that in that future a significant portion of these children can have that independence that means they can give back to society.
In Ireland right now many parents are hearing that the government don’t agree. Just one of the services hit by cutbacks is Special Needs Assistants from schools all over the country. Children are losing access to that vital lifeline they need to help them achieve all they can be.
The last Government decided in December 2010 to cap the number of SNAs at 10,575. There are currently 10,802 posts, which is 227 over the cap that has to be reached by the end of 2011. That reduction will take place by the end of the year. 277 doesn’t seem like a lot, but in a country the size of Ireland where schools are already struggling to provide for special needs children, it is huge.
Aristotle said that education is the best investment for old age. Yes, money is tight and times are harsh but how will that improve by having a generation of children whose potential to give back to society is ripped away? Surely our children are worth the investment.
For any Irish people reading, there will be a protest at Dail Eireann from 15.00 to 21.00 on the 13th July 2011.
To my American friends and family – Happy 4th of July Weekend!