Special Needs? – are we sure?
When I began writing about life with Bipolar, I made a pact with myself not to stray off message, or be tempted into territory where my experience/expertise gave me limited credibility. That opening prompts the word but ……… and you’d be right.
And maybe I’m not straying that much since the term Special Needs is attached ‘loosely’ to those with mental issues, especially the young. Loosely is correct!
So why is it that the UK has five times as many ‘Special Needs’ pupils as the rest of the EU. I have no stats for the US or elsewhere, so they may match the UK - but I doubt it. I mean, wait for it, nearly 2million children (a fifth) are diagnosed as SEN !
To say it begs a question is to put it mildly. It begs several:-
· Either something genetic is happening
· Schools are lazy and it’s easier to say ‘Special Needs’ than to admit teacher failings.
· Or worse, it’s about distorting the system where government watchdog incentives encourage over classification
· Are parents no longer willing to accept that young Johnny is perhaps lazy, or a true late developer, or simply disruptive, or horror of horrors – he’s just thick. A pejorative term and it maybe not helpful, but put that down to my Northern directness and personal frustration.
For me we can safely discount something genetic – after all we are a mix of Angles, Saxons, Celts and Vikings.
I reckon it’s about the other three coalescing to create this nonsense.
For too long, the chattering classes have ruined our schools by eliminating competition in sport (the we’re all winners here syndrome), and learning has been reduced to similar measures. A child that’s a spoilt brat, and who is disruptive, and bone idle in the classroom, is likely to have his parent’s declare he is dyslexic, rather than accept they have made a mess of his upbringing.
Similarly, the inability of teachers to apply any type of discipline (not their fault), has lead to reducing standards ( sorry but I simply don’t buy into the standards have never been higher), and no doubt having more children diagnosed as SEN helps the ‘scores’ at the end of the day.
Why is this important? Well there’s the rub – it’s like everyone is Bipolar these days. THEY ARE NOT – at least most are not. It dilutes the currency of the condition, and by definition alters people’s perceptions of its seriousness. Ditto with Special Needs!
Without being too prescriptive, or too exhaustive, I thought Special Needs were about autism spectrum, dyslexia, deafness, blindness, other physical impairments, serious mental issues etc. For those of you who still feel I’m over-exaggerating, believe this – one school measured was including children of servicemen serving in Afghanistan in their SEN numbers!
This ridiculous state of affairs means that the resources that should be focussed on the children who are really handicapped in some way, are now spread evermore thinly to accommodate some kids for which a kick up the arse ( metaphorical of course – whereas in my day you got the full meaning) would be a more apposite response.
I know how angry and frustrated I get when I hear someone trot out ‘oooh I think I may be Bipolar too’. I can only imagine how galling it must be to have say, an autistic child, and find another parent empathising saying ‘young Johnny has special needs too’ when everyone else can see he just a lazy little stinker!
Thank God I’m 60!
Don’t think I could cope with another 40 years of this type of depressing trend.