Tuesday 25 July 2017

Pressure grows on Bruton in row over ADHD diagnoses

Education Minister Richard Bruton. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Education Minister Richard Bruton. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Pressure is mounting on Education Minister Richard Bruton to set a clear timeline for the introduction of a new system to assign special need teaching resources after it emerged some children are being unnecessarily "labelled" with disorders.

The head of the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has warned that a practice known as 'diagnosis for dollars' is happening here with professionals making some children "fit a certain category of disability in order for them to get a resource".

In other cases medics over-diagnose because they feel like an advocate for a child.

Under the current system a formal diagnosis of conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is required before extra teaching supports are provided by the Department of Education.

Áine Lynch, CEO of National Parents Council (Primary) said they have been looking for changes to the assessment system for some time.

"We would be absolutely concerned about the assessment and labelling," she said.

"Teachers are the best people to assess children's learning capabilities and that should be reflected in the allocation of resources."

Ms Lynch said a broader range of questions also needed to be asked in relation to whether children should be labelled with certain disabilities from such a young age.

And writing in today's Irish Independent, Fianna Fáil's education spokesman Thomas Byrne described as "shocking and worrying" the idea that some professionals could offer a misdiagnosis for money.

Teresa Griffin, the head of the NCSE, has revealed she has been told first-hand by professionals that they had misdiagnosed children in order to help them get extra resources.

Mr Byrne said the relevant professional bodies "need to respond" to this statement.

"Making a child 'fit' into diagnostic category simply for the purpose of gaining access to learning supports, may mean that a temporary behavioural problem can become a more lasting one," the Meath East TD said.

"A wider issue with over-labelling is the effect it is having on the distribution of educational resources across schools.

"There are gross inefficiencies and inequities in the current system of allocating resource teachers across schools."

The Education Department is in the process of creating a new model to distribute resources but a firm timeline for its implementation has not been agreed.

It will remove the link between a diagnosis of a disability and the allocation of resources, instead placing more emphasis on a schools overall needs.

The earliest the changes will be in place is September 2017.

Ms Lynch said this will bring a "better way of looking at resources" as schools are best placed to understand the individual needs of children.

"A disability label doesn't tell us best about the child's educational needs," she said.

Irish Independent

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