May 20th, 2021

Better support needed for students with disabilities

HALIFAX - The provincial government seems to have stepped back from its commitment to provide support to students with disabilities during at-home learning.

Emily Duggan lives in Louisbourg. Her daughter, Grace, is in primary and attends Riverside Elementary School.

“When my daughter started school, we were told many of the supports she was receiving would now be done through the school. Grace uses a wheelchair and she is non-verbal. She needs regular speech therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy,” said Duggan. “Since at-home learning began, Grace has not had access to these health services in-person. We support her at home, of course, but that is not a replacement for important therapies.”

The provincial government made a commitment in September 2020 as part of its Back to School plan to ensure students with disabilities and/or Individual Program Plans would still be able to access the support they need.

“Unfortunately, the government seems to have failed to implement any of these plans with regard to support for students with complex needs and their families. We have heard from multiple families and school staff that, since schools were closed during this third wave, no in-person support has been provided to students or families and that students with high needs have not been supported to engage with school at all,” said Claudia Chender, NDP Education Spokesperson. “Families who can afford it are paying out of pocket for respite care while others are struggling to make up for the loss of support that occurred when schools closed. I hope the province can find a solution to help these students and their families quickly.”

Chender wrote to Education Minister Derek Momberquette on this issue earlier in the week.