International Provisions for Kids With Special Educational Needs
The world is constantly evolving. Technology and medicine are becoming ever more advanced, while society is constantly striving to become more understanding, compassionate, and accepting towards our fellow people.
Historically speaking, this understanding and compassion have been less than giving towards those with special educational needs (SEN) requirements, fortunately as we as a population learn more about the various disorders that contribute to these needs, the hive mind as a whole is much more open to offer amenities, provisions and assistance.
Professionals estimate that one in six American children require additional support in school as a result of special educational needs. With this relatively high number, the amount of support in the States is ranked as some of the best in the world. But what about when you’re looking to travel overseas? Here we look at three destinations you are (statistically) most likely to visit as a result of expatriation or long-term travel.
Across the pond and far away
The United Kingdom has long held a special relationship with America and it remains the most visited country in the world by Americans (excluding Canada and Mexico) with an average of three million tourists each year and a significant expat community.
The UK currently has one of the highest rates of SEN children in the developed world, research by the Department for Education tells us that there are currently more than 1.3 million children in England (roughly 15% of pupils) who have been diagnosed as having special educational needs, and of these 1.1million are enrolled in a mainstream school rather than a special school.
The English system, which is looked upon as one of the best in the world (a recent poll answered by parents who have a child on the autism spectrum ranked it fourth in the world), now provides many options, and a clear pathway right through a child’s education, starting as early as pre-school. In September 2014, England introduced a new framework which immediately came into effect. This is entitled the Children and Families Act 2014, and it allows children with complex needs to be transitioned into education, health and care plans (EHCPs) which remain in place until they are 25 years of age.
For British citizens with SEN children the process to enroll within this process is simple enough, for international visitors planning long-term but not permanent stays an EHC plan wouldn’t be necessary or practical. However, those who are will be provided with a list of suitable schools in your area, some of these schools will have an Autism Accreditation. As a parent looking for a school you may be able to obtain a copy of these lists from the local council.
Several years ago, the English government unveiled The Equality Act 2010. This applies to all maintained, and independent schools, as well as maintained and non-maintained special schools. This Act means that it is unlawful for schools to discriminate against, harass or victimize a disabled pupil or potential in relation to:
- The way that it provides education for pupils, and the way it provides a pupil’s access to any benefit, facility or service.
This means that a school cannot refuse or omit an admission application from a prospective student due to their disability (or nationality), unless it would be detrimental to the pupil in question, or other children who attend that particular educational establishment.
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Across the channel: France
A short trip over the English Channel to the land of romance, cheese and baked goods can offer a slightly more tropical albeit urban cityscape. While the French haven’t historically been the greatest when it comes to special educational provisions they have recently taken steps to greatly improve their offering making the country more appealing to parents.
In April 2018, The French government launched a new 5-year £297million strategy called ‘Autisme: Changeons la donne!’ in an attempt to make amends for what had previously been denounced by the United Nations as a “widespread violation” of citizens’ rights.
At the time of this plan’s unveiling, it was estimated that a mere 20% of SEN children in France were attending school, and even then they were mostly part-time students.
Thankfully this is now changing, with teacher training and funding for specialist personnel in the schools. For international visitors however, the availability of schools with SEN support is broad with many already having their own systems in place. These schools, such as the British School of Paris (who have dedicated SEN support staff in every faculty) can be costly, but the high price is reflected in the grounds, quality, care and support they can offer in return.
China is a vast land full of diverse cultures stretching over 3,000 miles from west to east and uncountable historical landmarks from centuries of civilizations. Levels of education within the country vary dramatically from inner-cities to rural villages, for international visitors most large dwellings such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Wuhan can offer a number of schools with support for those on the autism spectrum.
Back in 2008 the Chinese government ratified a UN resolution to include all students regardless of any physical or mental disability in the educational system. Yet 10 years later and there’s little progress in achieving this, in its place however is billion-dollar investments into specialized schools specifically for these children.
Due to the sheer size of mainland China the schooling options can be limited simply based on travel arrangements and practicality. In most major cities including all those listed above, international schools exist to help the children of international families during their stay in the country. The International School of Beijing is a favorite for many American expats in the city and offers learning support services for students facing challenges, the ranges from classroom support to short-term interventions. For those needing longer-term help they will create an Individual Learning Plan to ensure the child has the best chance possible to succeed within their curriculum.
Countries around the world are now recognizing and addressing historically archaic laws and regulations, opening up new worlds of opportunity for those with special educational needs, while once upon a time families with young children would think twice before setting off on an international stay, there are more and more provisions available every month across the world.
This article was featured in Issue 80 – Conquering Challenges With ASD