Hide on special education


Little Devon Roke was turned down by three early childhood education centres before BestStart’s ABC Waterview agreed to enrol him.

The three centres had their stated reasons — but the real reason was that Devon has cerebral palsy. …

I had many wonderful experiences in politics but the greatest was my all-too-brief spell as Minister Responsible for .

I visited my first special school not knowing what to expect and was immediately swept up in a class where I had never before seen so much learning and sheer joy and such committed and loving teachers.

I couldn’t tear myself away and found myself cavorting on the floor, dancing and singing with the students, totally uncaring what I looked or sounded like or that I was supposed to be the minister, not a child at school.

I was hooked.

It consumed me.

It was wonderful.

I saw children learning more than I ever believed possible. I saw children put in more effort than I had ever before seen. I walked beside a boy as he dragged himself to class from the playground and then up into his chair.

And I saw the look of achievement and happiness on his face.

He could not have been prouder if he had just conquered Everest.

In another primary school, I saw children looking after their cerebral palsy mate in a wheelchair and playing football with him. I don’t know who among them was enjoying it the most.

And everywhere the teachers were the most wonderful I could imagine.

I did my best to make the students’ lives better, but instead it was they who made such a difference to mine.

I still get texts from some and some still remember my birthday.

I feel sorry for the students of the three centres who turned Devon away. He would have made such a difference to their lives. And now they are going to miss out. That’s sad and it’s wrong.

What a great column.

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