‘Impact on all pupils’

FIONNUALA Lynch won’t start school until next year but her mother Tracey Holsgrove is fighting to ensure she gets all the supports she needs when does.

The three-year-old has a rare condition called Dandy-Walker syndrome, which means part of her brain is not fully developed. She is at the developmental stage of a 10-month-old and is unable to walk or to stand on her own, and still wears nappies.

Under the previous government’s four-year national recovery plan last November, the number of special needs assistants (SNAs) helping children with disabilities in primary and second-level schools can not breach 10,575, despite thousands more children entering classes over the next few years.

Tracey and Fionnuala’s father Liam Lynch travelled from Oldcastle, Co Meath to Sligo to impress on Education Minister Ruairi Quinn the need to ease the restrictions on the number of SNAs.

“We know she’s not going to go to college or do the Leaving Certificate. But we want her to have a chance to read and write and live as happy a life as she can,” said Tracey.

“She might not be starting school until September 2012 but if they’re restricting the number of SNAs now, what are her chances going to be in a year’s time?”.

After approaching Mr Quinn at the teachers’ congress Tracey and Liam plan to write to his office and seek a further meeting.

“I just told him how important it is that all children with special needs get the supports they should have,” Tracey said.

“These cuts don’t just impact on those children but also on the other pupils in the class because if a child doesn’t have the proper SNA help, the teacher has less time to give to the others.”

Tracey and Liam are involved in a campaign to restore SNA numbers and a Facebook page — Give Our Kids their SNAs — has more than 2,000 supporters.


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