Stopped in his tracks

CHRISTIAN Medina Finsen was looking forward to starting school with the rest of the boys and girls in September.

The five-year-old with Down Syndrome was to begin junior infants at Lucan Educate Together National School. But his enrolment has been refused because the school says it cannot cater for his moderate learning disability.

Christian’s application was supported by a psychological report saying he would need a full-time special needs assistant (SNA) and resource teaching hours, which need to be sanctioned by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE).

But the school board told his parents, Monica and Mikkel, that they cannot offer him a place, as it has been told no child will be given a full-time SNA next year by the NCSE.

The number of SNAs has been capped nationally and hundreds of children have had to share assistants or get fewer hours with their SNA. But the impact has been too much for the Danish-Chilean couple and Mikkel has applied for a work transfer to the US.

“The situation is desperate, with all the cuts everywhere. We simply don’t see that Christian has a positive future here,” said Monica. “It’s awful, we really don’t want to leave but we don’t see any choice.”

The school’s management did not comment on the situation when contacted by the Irish Examiner yesterday.

Monica and Mikkel have not taken up their legal right to appeal the refusal and have not applied for any other schools. They believe Christian would not make proper educational progress at a special school alongside some pupils with more severe disabilities.

More than 500 primary pupils with moderate learning disabilities are taught in mainstream schools, with the help of additional teaching and, in most cases, SNA help.

Down Syndrome Ireland chief executive Pat Clarke said about two-thirds of children with Down Syndrome attend mainstream primary schools, and the best place for any child to be educated is in their community with their peers.

Picture: Christian Medina Finsen, five, has been refused entry to Lucan Educate Together school, because they will not get the full-time SNA he needs. Picture: Nick Bradshaw

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