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Multi-sensory impairments

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By Colin Anderson

What are the pros and cons of mainstream and special schools for children with multi-sensory impairments? Colin Anderson, Publishing Manager from Sense describes some of the main factors.

Sense

The debate about `inclusive’ education arouses strong emotions.

Some argue passionately that all children should go to mainstream schools – regardless of their level of disability. They believe that including disabled children in ordinary schools, when well-resourced and managed, benefits all children.

Others argue that it is not as straightforward as this and that children with complex needs will often need the facilities and teachers that a special school can provide.

One of the key factors in finding a school for a child is the nature and severity of their disability. Sense supports children with a wide range of difficulties, and has many years’ experience of supporting children with a combination of sight and hearing impairments – also known as deafblindness. Many children will also have other physical and learning disabilities to deal with and may have fragile health. These children are described as having multi-sensory impairments (MSI)

Multi-sensory impairments.

Sense also supports children who are born deaf or hard of hearing, and then develop tunnel vision and night blindness in their teens as a result of a condition called Usher syndrome.

For the parents of the children that Sense supports, their choice will usually be guided by practical considerations – they simply want to find the best school for their child. They may have a personal preference for a mainstream or special school but their decision will be affected by many factors – by their child’s disability, by the quality of the schools available locally, by the attitudes of teachers and how much funding for support they can get.


In practice?

In the UK there have been many milestones on the journey towards inclusive education, although many would say that the destination is still some way off. The recent Children and Families Act 2014 includes the presumption that children should be included in mainstream education wherever possible. As part of this, special educational needs statements and learning difficulty assessments were replaced with Education, Health and Care Plans covering young people up to the age of 25.

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