Understanding Special Education

Special education is a topic that I had little knowledge of coming into today’s lectures. What I knew came from seeing kids in school who received help with reading or speech therapy, and my interactions with kids who were in support programs who were taught in a separate room.

Today I learned how complex the UK school system can be. There are at least six types of schools, all having to follow different protocols and rules, which produces different outcomes for each type. Grammar schools, faith schools, and academies are equivalent to the prep schools, religious institutions, and private schools of the United States. The problem with this lack of regulation in many schools in the UK is that students with special education needs may be forced to search elsewhere, and there is no guarantee an institution locally will have the means to support them. This forces families into a potentially difficult situation.

A pressing issue in education today is a lack of representation in the teaching work force. According to Vina, a whopping 83% of teachers are white women, with a majority being over 50. Though I’ve had plenty of kind and genuinely great white women as teachers, its important to note that outside of extracurricular or superfluous courses I have never had a woman of color as a teacher. Even at the college level. I’m sure this has effected me, but I can’t imagine the effect on a child in special education who may already feel like an outcast or inadequate, and does not have a role model to look to at school, or an instructor who can understand them culturally.

I found Jo’s presentation on her work in Stockport gave a semi alternative take on assisting students with special needs. Team around the school, or (TAS) is an interdisciplinary group that supports children in special education. TAS is engaged when there is concern for a child that would lead to a team being gathered. This group is a pilot group and is rather new, with the goal being to lessen referrals for social care. School attendance and exclusions (in the US this means suspensions and expulsions) have improved significantly as well.

It is important to note that Stockport is a 92% white community with one of the largest wealth gaps in the UK. Knowing this, I would love go see how the TAS system could work on a larger scale in a possibly more diverse school. This would allow for effective case studies and help us understand special education students better. In Stockport its been reported that racial disparities for students in need of special education are not much of an issue or are not noticeable. However, I’d like to counter and wonder whether the ratio and likelihood of a student of color to struggle to receive help has been calculated to see if there are any disparities that seem to be hiding because of demographic issues.

As a future nurse who is interested in pediatrics, I am glad I’m getting to learn this now. My position will make me a pillar of support for families, so not only knowing the signs but also the system and how to navigate it can help ease the stress and uncertainty that may come about. In the UK and the states, navigating the world of special education is confusing and takes great patience while waiting for a child to receive the help they need to achieve success. Being equipped to help bridge the gap that is causing disparities for children requiring special education is also important to me because ultimately, every child deserves to get the help they need.

After the presentations today, I am wondering if and how difficulties with getting permission to begin SEND benefits from parents due to language barriers is being combatted. Something as simple as translators or a staff member who speaks the parents first language could help eliminate this. Though this is a somewhat naive outlook, promoting diversity in the social work and special education fields could help with these issues.

I also want to do more research on my own on the UK equivalent of the school to jail pipeline and the outcomes of boys who are an ethnic minority. Jo mentioned it was a point of concern for some school districts, which made me wonder how thoroughly researched this is.

Overall, today provided me with some insightful information that I plan to read up on more in the UK as well as the US. Being knowledgeable about special education is important for everyone, but as a future nurse this information is especially valuable.

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