Wednesday 28 February 2024

MaltaCAN troubled by escalating segregation in education of children on autistic spectrum

MaltaCAN is making an urgent appeal to education authorities, policymakers, stakeholders, and unions to reconsider current practices and policies contributing to the segregation of children on the autism spectrum.

MaltaCAN — a voluntary organisation made up of 14 independent organisations advocating the promotion and support of children’s rights — is deeply troubled by the escalating segregation of children on the autism spectrum in Malta.

“There is a disturbing trend of pushing children on the autism spectrum away from mainstream education, limiting their opportunities for inclusive learning experiences,” MaltaCAN said in a statement.

The organisation, which advocates for collaborative efforts to create an inclusive educational environment that embraces diversity and ensures equal opportunities for all students, believes certain actions by unions coupled with school policies are exacerbating the problem.

Directives that restrict learning support educators from working with specific students target vulnerable individuals, effectively pushing them out of the school system.

“This is a serious concern when taking into consideration the 180 pending applications from students who are currently waiting for a learning support educator,” it said.

It added that the lack of data and research into the current situation underscored the urgency of addressing the issue promptly to ensure the right to education for every child.

MaltaCAN has also been made aware that several children on the spectrum were currently not attending school or were being actively pushed out of their school.

It is speaking out after receiving several reports from parents and encountering these problems firsthand. Parents of children on the autistic spectrum also spoke in the media this week, highlighting the lack of resources and training across schools.

The Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability also spoke about the need for more learning support educators (LSEs) and more training for educators in the area, among others.

MaltaCAN emphasised the fundamental importance of every child’s right to a quality education, citing Article 28 of the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child, and pointed out that inclusive education not only benefitted children with disabilities but enriched the educational experience for all students, fostering understanding and acceptance.

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