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Sask. mother highlights lack of special needs supports in schools


The mother of a Regina special needs student who witnessed many of her supports disappear due to cuts – spoke out on the current struggles of education in Saskatchewan.

Taya Thomas tragically lost her daughter Mayelle this past December. Since her passing, Thomas has sought to highlight the challenges her child faced in overcrowded classrooms with lacking supports.

“She was 13 and a half years old. She was a wonderfully bright child,” Thomas explained. “She had some developmental delays. But that never stop[ped] her from engaging and doing things like every other child.”

Mayelle was wheelchair bound and suffered from seizures. One of her conditions did not allow her to sweat and would lead her to overheat if her classroom did not have access to air conditioning.

This, along with Mayelle’s wheelchair barely fitting through doorways at Grant Road School, were just some issues the young student faced.

“She was supposed to be going up to high school, and they did not have enough room in the high school program to accommodate her,” Thomas explained.

In addition, the program Mayelle had utilized since she was three years old – which allowed her to start her schooling early – was cut.

“For somebody who is nonverbal like my daughter, I mean, it was leaps and bounds in they need to have ways to communicate,” Thomas explained. “I think cutting all these programs that they needed didn't ever make sense to me.”

The Saskatchewan NDP brought the issue to the legislature on Tuesday.

“Saskatchewan is a rich province, there is no excuse. It should not be this way. It is a choice by that minister and the members opposite,” MLA Aleana Young said during question period.

Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill defended the government’s approach to education.

“It is record funding – $356.6 million for classroom supports funding distributed to all 27 school divisions,” he said, referring to the most recent education budget. “We understand that school divisions around the province are going to make different decisions on how that programming is offered to residents … but this is a government that is serious about ensuring that there are adequate classroom supports.”

“If [the Education Minister] thinks his government is doing enough on education; why were those supports for children like Mayelle cut?” Education Critic Matt Love asked.

Thomas commented on the current state of classrooms and challenges facing teachers – highlighting the need for the province to guarantee support.

“In my daughter's classroom. I believe there was at least 10 high needs students, there was one teacher, one nurse and three EA’s,” Thomas said.

“How are those teachers dealing with 30 plus kids, plus maybe one autistic kid or somebody who needs a little extra help? How are their needs being met? How are the teachers handling that?”

During question period debate, Cockrill committed to meeting with Thomas to discuss her concerns. Top Stories

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