Our children are not a burden

Today I cried down the phone as I was told my son had made it to the top of a wait list for early intervention support. I called my husband and loved hearing how happy he was – “How soon do we go?” he asked. I rang my son’s kindy’s head teacher, and my son’s key teacher – the kindy has been our biggest advocate in supporting our little one. I sobbed with happiness and they celebrated with me. The relief, the joy, it’s indescribable.

Parenting a child with learning delays or other needs can be exhausting and isolating – it’s made worse by shitty takes by people who have no idea what they’re talking about.

The Government announcing a plan to fund 600 new learning support coordinators to work one-on-one with students with complex needs was met with relief by parents and educators alike. It’s been a long time coming and we know how much this is needed. But with this announcement has come many bad takes. The commentary is a shitty reminder to families and children needing support that some people believe they don’t have enough of value to warrant inclusion in our society. Because school is indeed society.

When a national newspaper runs an editorial saying: “With one in every five children requiring particular support, every classroom must need three, four or five teacher aides. We can only wonder how the rest of the class functions with all this support going on, leaving aside the behavioural problems associated with learning disorders.” — The inference is clear – “the rest of the class” is the “normal” kids, the “worthy” kids.

Today’s frankly horrible editorial in the Herald focused on the cost of teacher aids: “The Ministry of Education is now employing 21,673 teacher aides, nearly one for every two teachers on the state payroll. That is a cost of more than $700 million, money not available for other educational purposes.”

The money is for educational purposes!

Please do not separate our children like this – it’s 2018. And we need your support, we don’t need this division.

I don’t believe most people think the way the writer of that piece thinks. At least that’s what I tell myself. I can’t believe that people think children who require support aren’t deserving of an education. Because that’s what we’re talking about, when people rail against mainstreaming, only focus on the cost, fixate on imaginary classroom problems as if all children don’t have needs in some way – we’re denying an education to all children. This rhetoric adds up.

More support in the classroom helps ALL children. More funding for teacher aids helps ALL children. But even if it didn’t – what do you want parents like me to do? Should we beg you to accept our children as worthy? I can promise you despite any challenges my child has, he has so much to offer to your child.

Please don’t talk about our children the way you have been. Don’t isolate them and us further. We are your community. Our children are not burdens. They’re precious – they’re just as precious as your children.


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