‘Black hole’ for dis­abled

Upper Hutt Leader - - FRONT PAGE - LAURA DOONEY

Par­ents of chil­dren with spe­cial needs say their kids are fac­ing a ‘‘big black hole’’ in mak­ing the tran­si­tion from high school to em­ploy­ment or fur­ther education.

Some are choos­ing to keep their chil­dren at school un­til they are 21, and are frus­trated by a lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween ser­vices de­signed to cater for their chil­dren, and schools.

Ad­vo­cates say sec­ondary schools are not do­ing enough plan­ning to help stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties or spe­cial needs pre­pare for the out­side world.

Mark Shanks has worked with fam­i­lies as a project man­ager for Life Un­lim­ited, a char­i­ta­ble trust which pro­vides sup­port to peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties. He says there is not enough long-term plan­ning at schools for stu­dents with spe­cial needs.

‘‘I think it sits with sec­ondary schools. Once they [stu­dents] start ... they should have a plan begin­ning then for when that stu­dent’s go­ing to leave.’’

Elaine Gous­mett’s 16-year-old daugh­ter, Chardon­nay Kyle, fin­ished school last year. She has spina bi­fida, ADD, dys­praxia and a mild in­tel­lec­tual im­pair­ment.

When the Up­per Hutt mother asked what op­tions her daugh­ter had af­ter school, she was told there was noth­ing. ‘‘There is just a big black hole.’’ An­other Up­per Hutt par­ent, who would only be iden­ti­fied as Jo, said she faced an up­hill bat­tle find­ing a place for 22-year-old Amanda af­ter she fin­ished school last year.

Amanda has Len­nox-Gas­taut syn­drome.

The pair had meet­ings with staff from the Min­istry of Education and the school, but peo­ple ‘‘did not have a lot of an­swers’’.

How­ever, Sec­ondary Prin­ci­pals’ As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Sandy Pasley said that when spe­cial needs were iden­ti­fied, schools had in­di­vid­ual education plans for those stu­dents, and met with par­ents reg­u­larly to look to the fu­ture.

Ka­t­rina Casey, deputy sec- re­tary Sec­tor En­able­ment and Sup­port at the Min­istry of Education, said ev­ery school had sys­tems in place to help young peo­ple make the tran­si­tion.

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