What does your child need in school?

Special needs assistants, that's what!

Don't turn away now, this IS relevant to you, especially if you have a child in school in Ireland.  It's relevant to every child in every school.  And once again they are under threat, as a new Department of Education circular issued just before Easter is going to make it harder than ever for schools and children to get and keep special needs assistants (SNAs).

Here's why this should matter to you:

1. Is your child starting primary school in September?

There may be NO SNAs in the classroom, as the school may have to prove that a child needs one first.  It's hard enough for teachers to manage a class of 30 junior infants,  even harder if there are one or more children with special needs who require extra attention and help.

2. It seems that children will be expected to help with the care needs of their classmates with special needs.

3. SNAs to help with behaviour support will only be sanctioned once everything else has tried and failed. So the poor child who can't cope, the teacher who is struggling and the other children in the class will all lose out. Meantime parents and schools are going to be drowned in even more paperwork, to work through this process. You'd wonder is the Department hoping that we just don't bother?

4. An end to SNAs in secondary schools? As the Department says, ideally no teenager should need an SNA. Parents know that. We don't look for SNA support for our children just for fun. We don't want them to look different to their peers. We only do it if we believe that it is absolutely necessary!

There are other reasons why you should care about this issue, reasons that were always there....

5. Special needs children are everywhere.  Look around you: perhaps your neighbour's child was diagnosed with ASD after struggling in primary school for years.  Maybe your nephew has dyslexia.  A local teenager has an accident and now needs a wheelchair ... and an SNA.  You can't always tell by looking at them.  Some are born with special needs, others acquire them through injury or illness.  Some are not diagnosed until after they start school....sometimes several years later.  It could even be your child one day.

6.  Because our children will grow up, and the adults they become will partly depend on the services they received on the way.

7. Because we have Inclusive Education in Ireland.  Well in theory anyway: sometimes I wonder if it is just an excuse to spend less, as special schools are so expensive.

8. Because EVERY child deserves an education.  

This is how one Mum summed up the new circular:

"Last year the Minister announced savage cuts for special needs, then he rolled back and didn't go ahead with them.  I said at the time that it was temporary, and to watch him.  Now the cuts are even worse, and ALL children will be affected.

Children with special needs will not be able to cope, will not manage, will fall behind, will be excluded or suspended or expelled.

Schools will start to turn away children with special needs, while some parents may start objecting to special needs children being in their child's class in case it takes away from their own child's education.

It is going to be mayhem.

While they cut supports to school, they are FUNDING ISOLATION ROOMS**!  What does that tell you except that special needs children will suffer."

**They are known as 'small safe spaces' in the School Design Guide.


For a forensic analysis of this issue please read this excellent post by Jazzygal:


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Send feedback to Special Needs Parents Association and Inclusion Ireland for their upcoming meeting with the Minister on June 5th:



  1. I have tears in my eyes here.
    I knew it, its no shock to me, but seeing it in black and white just makes it even more horrific.
    God help our kids, because the department of education sure aren't
    Aud xx

    1. We're going to help them, we're going to fight, just as I wrote in my previous post xxxx

  2. It is outrageous and very unfair. For your Government to remove assistance when it has been in place for so long is a travesty.

  3. Hear Hear..... another voice sharing the concerns of the impact of this circular . Excellently said. xx

  4. Nancy Matchton OwensMay 24, 2014 at 10:27 AM

    Great article Candi..... things are set to get a whole lot worse... if the politicians don't cop.on.... there are more and more children needing.support not.less and less. In primary you have small kids with small.problems and as they move to secondary they are big people with bigger.problems....ministet .. open your eyes... start validating inclusive how small minded can you get..... Classrooms need support all the politicians should go.to school.for a day.... If it.involved one of there children I am sure they would be fighting! They need to live in the real world.... Isolation rooms is a jail not a school.

    1. Thanks so much Nancy for taking the time to write and comment, really appreciate you standing up for our kids xx

  5. OMG I really can't believe that's happening. What happened to inclusion, compassion and common sense? It's made my blood boil!

  6. Candi it breaks my heart that we don't have a system where every school can fund a couple of SNAs, available to help children who may be struggling, and to see if any have particular special needs.
    My friends had to launch a mini campaign to get SNAs for their daughters, both of whom have had special needs from birth. They spent months writing letters, coming up against brick walls, and fighting tooth and nail to be heard.
    This is an issue for all of us. Our kids have a right to a decent education.

    1. No parent should have to fight for all these essentials that then takes them away from helping their children!

  7. Thank you for your comment on my joshi moshi blog. When I saw the title 'What does your child need in school?' I said 'reward time' that's what children need. It is great in my school because you can have reward time at the end of every day and all the children in the satellite unit really like it at school because when we do our work well and we are not naughty we get reward time. Reward time is 20 minutes everyday playing computer. One day a week we get to do the wii.

    1. My son got reward time in his primary school and it worked out very well! Thanks so much for your comment :)