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- Heidi Walding
The legal and regulatory requirements in place for children with disabilities or specific requirements are that all children should be treated fairly and lawfully within school or any social setting.
This includes; direct discrimination, which means refusing a child access to a setting or environment due to a condition and/or disability. Indirect discrimination occurs when only helping certain children, such as providing a lesson in the English language, knowing there is a child in your setting that does not understand English, or giving a lesson that is completely oral when a child may have a hearing impairment and not putting in place the correct provisions to help that individual. Discrimination due to disability is not allowing a child to; for example, join in a Physical Education lesson due to the extra time it may take to allow them to change into the appropriate clothing, and maybe someone’s time to help them do this. This may lead to a child having fewer opportunities and disallows the promotion of inclusion. The Equality Act 2010 ensures additional protection from discrimination for children with any disability. This gives a child with and disability the same access within schools, nurseries and social environments equal opportunities.
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The S.E.N Code of Practice promotes values of each individual. This gives guidance to schools to promote equal opportunities and inclusion for any child with a disability within any setting. This code of practice should be put into place at the earliest opportunity, as it enables a child with any disability to fit in and progress at the same pace as their peers.
The main principles are that all children’s needs are met. They also should be met within the mainstream school environment. The views of these children are incredibly important, and we should listen and understand their thoughts and feelings. Parents also have a vital role to play, without their input, ideas, beliefs and understanding of their own children, we cannot give a child a balanced education. The United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a human rights treaty that confirms the rights of people with disabilities. It states that it is important that people with any disability should have equal rights as people without a disability. People without disabilities do face barriers but the need to reduce these barriers is of vital importance. Article seven of the Convention related only to children and these measures must be taken. Children with disabilities can participate fully and equally with their peers with great enjoyment. When considering an intervention, the interests of the child should be paramount. All children should have the right to express their views on issues that affect them and should be taken seriously.
It is important to work inclusively with children with disability or special requirements because the medical model disempowers children as it sees the children with a disability to have an illness and a need to be cured. This is not inclusive practice. The social model is a different view, stating that all children, with or without disability, have the same rights and feelings. Discrimination of disabled people is created by the attitudes of the society we live in. It states that we must ensure inclusive practice within any setting. We must have respect for all children and their interests and show them empathy. This will ensure these children are empowered. Children and their families need to feel safe and secure and thus enables them to feel respected. Empathy is often mistaken for sympathy. For children to feel empowered enables them to feel independent and responsible for themselves. To help a child with a disability to feel included, we need to make them feel important and welcome. Using body language as much as possible to ensure this is understood. Being positive and listening to their hobbies, interests and needs helps the child understand that they are included and important to others.
Discrimination is not part of inclusion and should be dealt with in a sensitive, correct manner.
The benefits of working in partnership with parents and other professionals are that it enables us, as professionals to draw on parental knowledge of their child. They are the best source of knowledge regarding their child on a day to day basis. Parental knowledge helps us to focus on a child’s strengths. It enables us to understand a child’s personality and feelings, likes and dislikes. Parents should therefore have full access to the support we can offer and are always given any documentation before any meeting. Before the appointment, we should consider any barriers, such as language barriers. It is important we are flexible with appointments for meetings. It is also extremely important that we share our knowledge of other agencies, such as physiotherapists or speech and language therapists with parents so they can gain the best care and support for their child. We need to build a good partnership with parents and outside agencies. This enables us to work together to form a relationship and a firm understanding of that is needed for each individual case. It is a requirement that in each setting there is a member of staff who is at the core of these relationships. This person is usually a SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator).
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Practitioners can adapt their existing practice to support children with disabilities or specific requirements by adapting and adjusting the surroundings that a child with a disability is accessing. This enables a child to participate fully in lessons and activities.
If this is not put in place, it can cause a child to feel isolated. Sometimes this can mean adjusting access to a building or the layout of a classroom or equipment. Practitioners should ensure that all resources used are age and stage appropriate. For example, if a child has a visual impairment, the positioning of the furniture would need to be looked at, and changed, such as moving their seating within the classroom or never moving furniture a child is familiar with. Children with disabilities need to be able to communicate efficiently with their peers and teachers. Having a support teacher in place can help with these problems. Keeping a classroom or setting familiar enables the child to feel included, safe and confident. As professionals, we need to ensure we do not reflect on our own negative ideas and attitudes. We must challenge these attitudes to ensure each child with a disability is treated equally and fairly. We need to understand that children with some disabilities may need extra support with personal care, such as fastening buttons or washing hands after toileting. Some children will struggle with expressing how they need to are unable to make choices independently. In this instance, photographs or cards would help them in this situation. Children with disabilities may need help from their peers to ensure they navigate around an area safely and also keep an area free from hazards, such as the classroom floor. If an activity is either too easy or too hard, it can discourage a child and they may begin to lose confidence, so keeping resources available that are age and stage appropriate is of great importance.
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