Son needs more help, says mother
A 9-year-old Hamilton boy with severe behavioural problems has been threatening to hurt himself because he is bullied and is not getting the help he needs at school, his mother says.
The boy's principal says that many other children like him "fall through the cracks" of the school system, and a clinical psychologist warns the problem is on the rise.
Raewyne Oliedam said there was not enough support at school for her son Kevin Clark, who has attention deficit disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and suspected dyslexia.
And she is urging other parents of children with special education needs to speak up and ask for help.
Children with the "highest level of need" or severe intellectual and physical disabilities are eligible for ongoing resource scheme funding.
But those, like Kevin, who don't qualify, have only limited resources available.
Kevin, who attends Horotiu School, is two years behind in reading, writing and mathematics and has access only to a teacher aide part-time.
Miss Oliedam was recently told that he was also eligible for a resource teacher for a few hours, one day a week.
"When you've got a child like my son one day a week just doesn't cut it," she said. "What's he meant to do for the rest of the week?
"His disability doesn't go away."
Kevin's disorders cause him to be hostile with his peers and teachers, and to lack focus in the classroom.
His defiant nature has seen him banned from playing on the school field during breaks because "he's a danger towards other kids", and he's bullied regularly.
It has all taken a heavy toll on Kevin, who in recent weeks has been threatening to hurt himself on the mornings he has to go to school.
"It's his response to having no help," Miss Oliedam said. "It's purely frustration. He's sick of getting into trouble and he's sick of being blamed."
The Waikato Times has chosen not to publish specific details about Kevin's behaviour. However, when it started, Miss Oliedam said she rushed him to see a specialist, who described the situation as severe.
Horotiu School principal Jeff Stewart said the board of trustees held a meeting this week to discuss Kevin's case.
"We're doing our best for him and we're continually trying to do better but it's just there's not a lot available.
"There's probably lots of kids like him . . . They do fall between the cracks, there's no doubt about that."
Consultant clinical psychologist Helen Norman said that while there was help available, children like Kevin were challenging for teachers and required extra attention.
"The level of children with difficulty paying attention is increasing. It's a major challenge for schools to meet this need."
However, she said the disorders were also challenging for the child, especially when they were undiagnosed.
"In my experience, certainly children do get picked on sometimes. Partly because they're so reactive," she said.
"Often children will begin to believe they are stupid or somehow inadequate and their self-esteem suffers a lot."
She said various studies showed between 5 and 15 per cent of New Zealand children had ADHD, and that number was tipped to rise.
Ministry of Education group manager special education strategy Brian Coffey said he would contact Kevin's school and Miss Oliedam to see whether more support could be provided.