Note: Mission accomplished. The world is happy to be autistic. Our children were early adopters. We could all use a padded cell - I mean, "sensory room."
By Anne Dachel
Stories from the past week present two views of the decline of children everywhere in the world as posted on my site, Loss of Brain Trust.
First of all, there’s the nothing-is-really-wrong with kids who can’t talk, behave or learn like children have always been expected to. They are the new normal of the enlightened 21st century.
We can see this positive attitude in stories about neurodiversity and in the promotion of “sensory rooms” in schools, also known as “calming rooms,” for kids today who can’t handle stress.
A story from Northfield, NJ showed a colorful, toy-filled room with four smiling adults. We were told, “Studies have shown the rooms are useful for reducing and managing stress and aggression.”
A similar report from Woodstock, VA announced the benefits of a $5,000 room referred to as “Chillville” where students can “calm down for a few minutes if frustrated, angry or tired.”
In Talladega County, AL, the board of education has turned a retired school bus into a “sensory space” where “students with disabilities can escape when overwhelmed by the school day.”
“We wanted a mobile sensory room that we could bring to all 17 schools into our county,” Special Education Coordinator with TCBOE, Michelle Head said.
In addition there were stories reminding us that we need to “celebrate,” literally, all the neurologically impaired students flooding our schools.
Maldon, England’s Standard ran the story, Plume Academy celebrates 'superpowers' for ADHD Awareness Month.
A SCHOOL launched a project celebrating the “superpowers” of its neurodiverse students and those with disabilities. This year Maldon’s Plume Academy staff and students launched an exciting project in support of ADHD Awareness Month….
Hannah Wells, Plume's Deputy SENCO, said: "ADHD Awareness Month seeks to highlight the positives of neurodiversity - meaning that all of our brains function slightly differently, and this is what makes us brilliant and unique.
Those ‘superpowers’ include AUTISM.
"Neurodiversity encompasses lots of conditions, such as ADHD, OCD, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Autism and more….”
It is the ultimate absurdity to “celebrate” the conditions disabling a generation of children in the modern world, yet we’re routinely told we should.
On the English-speaking island of Malta in the Mediterranean, there was more positive news about neurodiversity.
We have been celebrating neurodiversity in all its shapes and sizes. Activities are taking place across our school to raise awareness about the strengths and challenges of neurodiverse individuals. …
Neurodiversity is the new normal, we ban the average and celebrate wondrous variety, in an inclusive school where everyone can fit in.
Instead of addressing what’s happening to millions of children around the world, we’re surrendering to it. We pretend nothing is wrong, or we actually embrace the nightmare and declare it’s something to be happy about.
Of course that’s nonsense. All these sick and disabled kids mean schools have to come up with costly support for them.
In the real world, especially in the U.K., there is another side to this. The financial impact of all the “neurodiversity” has resulted in mounting debt.
Devon is a county in southwest England where additional funding from the U.K. government simply isn’t enough to cover the COST of disabled students.
EXTRA money for schools in Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak’s budget on Wednesday last week has been welcomed by Devon County Council — albeit with the caveat that the extra funds are not enough to bring the county’s schools up to the same level as those elsewhere in the country….
The extra money for special needs education with more places for our most vulnerable children is also welcome but it doesn’t appear to address the continuing disparity in the funding we get and the increasing needs we have to satisfy. …
There was another story out of Devon about special education overspends that revealed really scary cost figures.
A further £36 million [$48M] expected to be added to the debt Leading Devon councillors are urging the government to clarify funding for special education after the county’s overspend on the service was projected to rise to £85 million [$114M].
They’ve come up with a debt “ARRANGEMENT” regarding SPED costs.
Councils have been told to put overspends for supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) into separate accounts for three years until April 2023. It means the shortfall doesn’t currently count towards Devon’s main revenue figures.
The county council entered this financial year with a total overspend of £49 million [$66M] in its ring-fenced SEND account. It expects to add a further £36 million [$48M] to the debt in 2021/22, according to the latest budget report. But it is still not known what will happen to the debt when the arrangement ends.
Moving the debt down the road three years doesn’t take into account the fact that there are going to be MORE SPECIAL NEEDS KIDS. There always are. It’s now a given.
This is what they’re seeing:.
…this year’s projected overspend on SEND of £36 million [$48M]had increased by almost £3 million [$4m] from the last update in September, due mainly to increasing demand in new requests for education and health care plans (EHCPs)….…
As a result of the extra demand, …
I’m no economist, but this practice can’t possibly work in the long run.
Additional stories continue the scenario of decline and higher costs.
The press in Ipswich, a town in southeast England, put out a brief announcement of yet another new special school.
The Department for Education put forward the application in summer for a 60-place SEN school that would accommodate children between the ages of nine and 16. …
A pre-application found no objections from the county council amid an "urgent requirement" for SEN schools across the area. …
This would include increasing school places,…
The BBC reported that Ofsted, the office that oversees education al standards, told the council in Wolverhampton , a city of about 250,000 in the West Midlands of England, that they were failing “many families” with special needs kids.
The main concerns raised during the inspection included long waits for children's needs to be assessed, quality of education, health and care plans being "too variable" and transitions in a child's life not being well planned. …
Inspectors also said many families "do not know where to turn to for support" …
There are 200 children on waiting lists.
Another story from Ipswich featured an MP who called for making special ed “a priority in school inspections” and that ‘all mainstream schools should be SEN schools.’
The MP said: “I was pleased that the Secretary of State for Education agreed with me, that all mainstream schools should be SEN schools.”
Mr Hunt welcomed the Budget's announcement of £2.6billion [$3.5B] of new funding across the next three years for new school places for children with SEND.
From East Anglia there was a story about the mother of an autistic son who had been “rejected from eight different schools in Norfolk and Suffolk.”
This particular child is not alone.
According to the National Autistic Society's school report published in 2021, across the UK, three quarters of parents said their child's school place did not meet their child's needs, doubling since the previous education report was published in 2017.
Parents also reported facing huge battles trying to get help, with 57pc saying they had to wait more than a year for support and 26pc waiting over three years.
The mother in the story was quoted saying, ‘The system is broken, the government must act.’
This was the county’s response:
A spokesperson for Suffolk County Council said: “Through our capital programme, the council has created an additional 210 extra school places this year for children with high needs and will be providing a further 260 extra places next year.
Seriously, we need to stop the continuous increases and look for the root causes.
Why isn’t this ever talked about?
We’re seeing massive changes in the health and development of children, yet we do nothing to figure out why it’s happening.
In Wiltshire, in southern England, they’re planning for a $39M special school. The contractors are ‘delighted.’
Another special school is announced for Peterborough in eastern England, something that is pretty much routine in the news in the U.K.
The school itself would be limited to a maximum of 21 pupils, ranging from 9 to 19 years old…
Finally, in a bizarre letter to the editor in the Irish Times, a school principal in Mullah, Co Cavan, Ireland complained about the lack of special ed training mainstream teachers are given in college.
[T]eachers are not necessarily trained to work in special classes when they come out of college. This surely begs the question, why not?
Actually it begs the question: Why should mainstream teachers today have to be trained to work in special classes?
In schools today the reality is that regular ed is now special ed.
Principal Ronan MacNamara acknowledged that THERE ARE MORE DISABLED STUDENTS (but that’s not the problem, according to him).
[A]s the number of special classes soars, [there is] the very significant increase in pupils now accessing special class places….
Young, aspiring teachers now spend four years attending the colleges of education. It is imperative that their training prepares them for working in our 21st-century inclusive education system.
The “very significant increase” is not a real concern. In fact, Principal MacNamara called the explosion in special ed “a most welcome development in Irish education.”
I have to end with that. At the same time the numbers and costs are unstoppable, educators and news reporters see no real problem. This scenario can continue forever, it seems. Celebrating neurodiversity will make it all go away.