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Special education funding: Robbing Peter twice to pay Paul

Special education funding: Robbing Peter twice to pay Paul

Autism New Zealand is concerned about plans to strip educational support to school children in favour of an underfunded preschool sector.

“Depriving children of needed support is short-sighted,” Autism New Zealand chief executive officer Dane Dougan says. “No one said funding should be taken away from the school sector. Children are still missing out.”

Autism New Zealand held its national conference during the weekend, and while keynote speakers from the US and Australia emphasised the importance of early diagnosis of those with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), many do not have a diagnosis until they have started school, as it can takes up to two years to get one.

Some schools were turning special needs children away, while others only allow children to attend if a teacher aide is present. These proposals will require more teacher aids at preschool level – without funding to train them.

Dougan says a meaningful education means access to schooling throughout a child’s schooling life. The proposed changes mean that both current pre-schoolers and future school age children could miss out.

“Cabinet papers have specifically acknowledged that demand is increasing for learning support for those with an autism spectrum disorder, yet they are now planning to take that support away.”

Some pre-schoolers diagnosed with ASD who got little support will miss out twice under these proposals, Dougan says. “Most who do not get diagnosed until they are at school will not receive required support – it’s hard enough now.”

“It’s not only robbing Peter to pay Paul - it’s robbing Peter twice."


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