Fears daughter will 'miss out twice' in change to special education funding

Giovanni Tiso supports early intervention for children with learning disabilities, but says there's simply not enough ...
CAMERON BURNELL/ FAIRFAX NZ

Giovanni Tiso supports early intervention for children with learning disabilities, but says there's simply not enough money to go around. His children Ambrose, 8, and Lucia, 10, are both autistic.

Children with learning disabilities could "miss out twice" under a plan to change how funding for special education is allocated, parents fear. 

The Government has announced a plan to spend more money on special education funding in a child's early years , and potentially quash funding for those aged 18 to 21. 

Giovanni Tiso has two children with autism: 10-year-old daughter Lucia was diagnosed when she was 2, and 8-year-old son Ambrose when he was 7. 

He supported moves towards early intervention for children with learning difficulties, but feared the Government had made a decision to allocate funding differently based on a belief there were enough resources going toward inclusive learning to begin with. 

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During consultation there was no room for discussion other than "what would you like to see", Tiso said. 

"They were never going to budge from initial position which was 'we're doing a great job' and that ... I think that's sort of a fantasy they had." 

Now he was concerned his daughter was going to miss out twice. 

"She missed out on early intervention when she was at kindergarten. The waiting list for support was so long that by the time she got it she was coming to school ... then she will miss out again when they pull out the blanket and redirect funding to younger kids." 

David Wales, head of special education at the Ministry of Education, said he could absolutely assure Tiso and other parents no child receiving support would miss out. 

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"Our assurance to parents is that older children will absolutely continue to be funded based on their need for services." 

Tiso was concerned families who did not have the money to get the extra help their children needed would be the ones to miss out. 

"It already makes it hard for us, the thought of it being harder doesn't bear thinking about." 

The new model would also mean schools had to show how students getting funding had made progress in their academic achievement, measured through national standards and NCEA results. 

"She [Lucia] sits national standards every year because she has to. She's always going to be well below, no matter how good a job the school does with her." 

Inclusive schools such as Berhampore School, that attracted children who needed learning support, would look worse off than less inclusive schools nearby. 

Claims the ministry intended to cut learning support services to older children, in order to boost funding for younger children, were not correct, Wales said.

There had been a great deal of misinformation about the plan to strengthen funding for younger children who needed learning support. 

The ministry wanted to get more help to children when they were younger, and expected this to lead to lower demand for services for older children.  

 - Stuff

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