HSE confirms preschool inclusion project

HSE confirms preschool inclusion project
The Health Service Executive (HSE), in a statement released Wednesday afternoon, said preschool provisions should be provided to the greatest extent possible in mainstream settings.

The Health Service Executive (HSE), in a statement released Wednesday afternoon, said preschool provisions should be provided to the greatest extent possible in mainstream settings.

In response to a query from the Donegal Democrat about HSE plans for the future of specialist special-education preschools in Donegal, the HSE said the Donegal Intellectual Disability Services are developing a project to enable the inclusion of children with an intellectual disability into mainstream preschools where appropriate.

A project team has been set up to determine the supports needed for the transition, “and to ensure children with an intellectual disability receive the assistance necessary for them to reach their full potential,” the HSE statement said.

The HSE said, “each child will be individually assessed and will continue to receive the supports and services they need. This will enable children with an intellectual disability to be educated in their own communities, with their own peers rather than being segregated in specialist disability services (unless a child is assessed as requiring specialist care).”

This is an integral part of government mainstreaming policy, the HSE said.

The HSE said specialised preschool provision “should be used only in relation to a very small proportion of children with disabilities, whose disabilities are so severe or complex and whose assessed level of care needs are so significant, that mainstream preschool education is not feasible.” They estimated this should apply to no more than 5 per cent of children with a disability.

The HSE said they have been working with parents of children with an intellectual disability, and will continue to work and communicate with them.

Gina Grant of Letterkenny, whose son Francis attends the specialist preschool Ballaghderg in Letterkenny, was not satisfied with the response.

“If they’re not closing Ballaghderg surely they could just put it in writing,” she said. Gina also said the first contact she received from the Health Service Executive about plans for specialist preschools came yesterday, after she had spoken at a public consultation and to the media about her concerns. Other parents have also complained that they have not heard from the HSE.

There will always be a need in Donegal for specialist preschools, Gina said. Referring to the estimate in the HSE response, she said, “I think the statement should have been a simple two lines: St. Agnes and Ballaghderg will remain open, because they should value the 5 per cent who have a disability.”

HSE full statement on special-needs preschools:

The Donegal Intellectual Disability Services are developing a project that will enable the inclusion of children with an intellectual disability into mainstream preschools, where appropriate. A project team has been set up to determine the supports required in mainstream preschools and to ensure children with an intellectual disability receive the assistance necessary for them to reach their full potential. Parents will continue to be communicated and consulted with as part of the project; each child will be individually assessed and will continue to receive the supports and services they need. This will enable children with an intellectual disability to be educated in their own communities, with their own peers rather than being segregated in specialist disability services (unless a child is assessed as requiring specialist care).

The inclusion of young children with disabilities in preschool settings is an integral part of the government’s policy on mainstreaming. The HSE works with funded specialist providers, in co-operation with the education sector and parents/families to address the health related needs of children with special educational needs in the context of the resources available. This

may include the provision of grant aid to support preschool provision in community preschools or the funding of special preschools specifically for children with a disability. The HSE also provides preschool assistant supports for children with special needs to attend mainstream community based preschools. Preschool provision for all children should be provided, to the greatest extent possible, in mainstream settings. Specialised preschool provision should be used only in relation to a very small proportion of children with disabilities whose disabilities are so severe or complex and whose assessed level of care needs are so significant, that mainstream preschool education is not feasible. It is estimated that this should apply to no more than 5 per cent of children with a disability.

The HSE has been working with parents of children with an intellectual disability and would like to reassure parents that they will continue to work and communicate with them. Any future plans for services will be fully discussed with them to ensure their children receive the best possible care.