Recently I received a letter from a parent, along with a ‘Special Needs’ report from a clinic that claimed her child had both ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), Dyslexia and Dyscalculia, (the numeric version of Dyslexia). This was quite a combination of learning difficulties and whilst not unheard of, is quite unusual. To make the whole diagnosis slightly more questionable, the child involved was only just six years old and when I did the appropriate research with the class teacher, Head of Year, Special Needs Co-ordinator and the child themself, it was clear to me that the diagnosis was in fact, untrue.
I spoke to the child’s parent about the diagnosis and where she got it. She was understandably very defensive at first but then began to open up as to why she had decided to send the report in. It turned out that she was worried about the upcoming end of term exams and had heard that if a child could get a statement of special educational needs, they would be given more time and the teacher would read the questions as well. Such was the pressure that the parent felt regarding passing the exams, she resorted to paying for a false diagnosis. The irony though is that the child had a strong GPA and would undoubtedly have sailed through the exams regardless.
This whole episode got me thinking. What kind of educational psychologist would be willing to write such false and potentially damaging statements? A little digging unearthed not only this clinic but others that offered special educational needs assessments and for a fee, (of course) a full diagnosis would be given. For slightly more money they offered a range of courses to help children overcome their learning difficulties in as little as six weeks! Imagine that, writing a false diagnosis and the miracle cure all that the same time – genius!
Somebody has obviously seen a gap in the market and rather cleverly capitalised on it, preying on vulnerable and worried parents by offering miracle solutions. The only fly in the ointment, however, is that the island is populated by very experienced and professional teachers from around the world who are used to working closely with educational psychologists and creating inclusive learning environments. When they receive a statement of special needs, they know exactly how to create safe learning environments that enable children to access learning and enjoy school.
It appears, however, that children with special needs on the island are on the whole ignored, hidden away or capitalised on by quacks or by those private schools who can charge large sums of money for ‘learning support’ that generally consists of a tired teacher in a small room spending small amounts of time with large amounts of children, demonstrating little evidence of improvement.
Special needs teaching is a highly skilled profession and I am delighted that there are some highly reputable institutions in the kingdom who support families and children with integrity, it’s just that there are also institutions springing up that aren’t reputable at all and are quite prepared to give dubious information to willing families.
What is most frightening of all, however, is that there doesn’t seem to be any accountability. Who exactly is regulating all of this?