Research on Covid 19 is ongoing, but at the moment, the consensus among Down syndrome groups internationally seems to be that people are no more likely to catch the virus because they have Down syndrome. The Down Syndrome Medical Interest Group says:
‘There is no evidence at the moment of people who have Down syndrome being at particular risk of this coronavirus, though of course people who have Down syndrome may be more at risk from infections generally and respiratory infections in particular. However there is evidence to suggest it may pose a greater risk to those with other chronic health conditions, including pre-existing respiratory conditions, heart disease, diabetes, and immunodeficiency. A number of children and adults who have Down syndrome will fall within these higher risk groups.The advice offered should be case specific, and can be guided by advice offered by the speciality groups relevant to the different conditions.’
Schools are now staying closed for the rest of the academic year, with the hope that they can resume in September if all goes to plan. While it’s good to have some kind of timeframe, this is very much dependent on whether transmission of the virus stays relatively low as restrictions are eased. It’s clear to teachers and parents that social distancing is not a real possibility in school settings, so when schools do reopen, we anticipate that some parents will be reluctant to send a potentially vulnerable child into a situation where they may be at risk.
In this situation, where your child’s schooling has been interrupted for some time, what is the best way to resume education?
You will need to ask yourself a few questions:
- What do I think is best?
- What does my child want to do?
- What’s possible?
- What’s the best approach in the short term?
- What are the long term implications of this approach?
We have been approached for advice about repeating a year. This seems like a reasonable idea, given that several months of school time have been lost, and the long break means that there will likely be an extended settling in and consolidation time for students before approaching new topics.
We have contacted both the DES and the DCYA and are awaiting responses from them on whether they will facilitate this.
The positives of repeating a year are clear. Time to settle back in. Repetition and consolidation. Returning to a known setting. This could be particularly beneficial for children who were at the end of preschool, primary or post-primary school, and would otherwise be moving to somewhere new with limited preparation and time to adjust.
Less positive could be the feeling of being left behind when all your classmates are continuing to the next stage. Losing touch with friends and having to make new connections.
There could also be longer-term consequences. Students in special schools finish their education the year they turn 18, so repeating a year now could mean losing a year later. In mainstream schools, students usually finish their current cycle when they turn 18, but may not be able to start a new one. So if repeating a year means that your child will be turning 18 in Junior cert year or transition year, they may not be able to enroll for the senior cycle.
If you are considering asking for any kind of special arrangement to be made for your child, whether this is keeping your child at home for longer or repeating a year, your first point of contact is your school Principal. You may also need to contact your local SENO, as there may be implications for resource allocation.
Resuming education in a positive way is important. We will continue to communicate with the relevant government departments to advocate for flexibility within the system in order to enable families and students to make the best choices they can in difficult circumstances.
Do contact Fidelma Brady, DSI Education Officer, Olive Buckeridge, Early Years Speciailist, or Nicola Hart, Head of Member Services if you’d like to discuss this issue further. Although we are currently working reduced hours, we will do our best to support members at this difficult time.