IDK recently heard a very sad story about a newcomer child with deafness and autism, so we are sharing it here, to show how vulnerable children can ‘fall through’ the Irish education system. The iPhone GraceApp for people with autism, could be his lifeline in teaching sign with PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System).
B, the child in question, lived in South America until his family moved to Ireland 18 months ago, when he was 6 years old. In his home country, he had received two years’ schooling, despite his obvious learning difficulties.
Once in Ireland, his family attempted to seek intervention for his language and developmental delays. During the next 16 months they were shunted between state agencies and support organisations. No HSE assessment was forthcoming, to qualify B for the learning interventions he needed so badly.
Further, because B lacked a HSE assessment, no local school would accept him as a pupil, despite his visiting teacher’s efforts. His case was finally referred to the Education Officer for the county in which the family lives.
A local educator fluent in sign language, was asked to consider home-tuition for B. His deafness wasn’t an issue for her, but she had never taught a child with autism. Her biggest concern was, where to start? B had lost years of learning, and a child gains 75% of their knowledge in their first four years.
Through a chance meeting in Dublin, B’s educator learned of the GraceApp for the iPhone, which was devised by the mother of two children with autism. In consultation with the program’s creator and IDK, she is planning B’s home tuition, using an iPhone as a portable tool to explain new concepts.
PECS topics in the GraceApp for the iPhone include clothes, colours, food & drink, body parts, shapes & numbers, a sentence-starter and things the user likes. IDK will post updates and observations from the pilot in due course.
Meantime, a local school will accept B as a pupil from September 2010. This gives him 3.5 months to get used to learning in a structured environment.