This is the letter I wrote to the Minister for Education to ask her to reform the special education system to teach children like me to read and write.
My name is Jonathan Bryan and I am 10 years old. Until last year I was unable to communicate, as I am in a wheelchair with Cerebral Palsy and my voice does not work. Learning to spell, using only my eyes, has totally transformed my life, but it is only possible because my mother taught me to read and write. What brings me incredible sorrow is watching my non-verbal friends in wheelchairs miss out on the fullness of life because no-one believes that they are worth teaching literacy to, and waiting locked in for someone to give them a chance to have a voice.
In my experience, non-verbal children like me can’t be described as having Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD) when they have never been taught. At the age of 4, I entered the special education system yoked with the label PMLD despite no-one having taught me; or having found a way for me to communicate. I believe children like me should be reclassified as having Profound and Multiple Access to Learning Difficulties. Special needs teachers must believe in the potential of their pupils, take the time to find out how the different children will access literacy, and then teach them. Disabled children with communication issues are not being taught in special schools. They are being babysat!
If literacy was taught to children in special schools more children would be unlocked like me. My dream is that every non-verbal child is taught to read and write. Underestimating special needs children is robbing them of their right to education and communication. Until this is seen as the abuse it is, nothing will change. Reforming the special needs curriculum must be a priority.