Assessment waits dire in our public schools

In our school system, a two-year wait for an assessment for a child who may have a learning

In our school system, a two-year wait for an assessment for a child who may have a learning disability or some kind of behavioural issue is considered pretty good.

It’s a pretty shocking fact, and some of our Cowichan Valley school trustees seemed surprised to hear it from the medical health officer for Central Vancouver Island, Dr. Paul Hasselback at a recent board meeting.

They shouldn’t be surprised. We’ve been reporting about the problem for years, and their own professionals in the field have spoken quite passionately to the board about it in the past.

Though to be fair, that was a different school board and some of the trustees are new.

We hope that perhaps this can encourage a new urgency on this very important issue crippling our school system.

The fact of the matter is, it is a long, hard road to get your child any extra help from the public school system.

The cold, hard truth is that by the time most of these kids get the assessment they need — which doesn’t always lead to adequate in-school support for their problem, school budgets being what they are — many grades have gone by where many of these students have learned virtually nothing.

Often they are a problem for the rest of the class, as well, as they prove disruptive and eat up a lot of their teacher’s time, if their teacher is conscientious in trying to deal with their needs.

Or there are the other kids who don’t act out, they just withdraw quietly into their own little worlds, silent victims floating by.

In many classrooms there are a lot more than one or two of these students as well.

By the time their turn for assessment rolls around, a lot of these kids are no longer in the public school system, their parents long having gotten fed up with the bureaucracy that is so desperately failing these kids.

Trustee Joe Thorne is correct, as well, that it is a whole other problem when parents refuse to admit to themselves that there’s anything different about their child.

This attitude does a disservice to their child’s class, their child’s teacher, and most of all, their child.

When it comes to behaviour problems, the longer the children go without a proper plan to help them, the worse the whole situation becomes, as undesirable behaviours, and the trouble in school that so often comes with them, becomes ingrained, and can even escalate.

We hear all the time about unacceptable wait times for surgeries at our hospitals and how the government is pouring resources into cutting those lists down.

It’s time they do the same for our children who are waiting for assessments at school.