During Summer & Autumn of 2020 we welcomed parents to share what their vision of an ideal school situation for their child is. Below are some of the ideas and visions that were sent to us.
“A school that understands and accepts that kids need individual treatment and support. No rigid rules for the sake of them. The right to learn comes first. If a kid need a baseball cap on or a stuffed animal to feel safe, let them. No threat of fines for non-attendance. Rather: a helping hand for non-attendance. Accept that a low energy day can be worse than a day with a cough for an autistic child. Make it possible to combine classroom learning with distance learning to accommodate the fact that not all days are equal. The same rights to support for all children, not for a limited number based on budgets. Low arousal training of all staff. Training in all disabilities.” -Father, Stockholm region, Sweden
“My vision of an ideal school situation for my child is a school in a country setting, where the students can be outdoors a lot. Animals (such as rabbits & sheep) outside that they can take care of and that calm the children. I would like the school to be a house that has a feeling of home. No big school cafeteria, no corridors, no strict classrooms. A calm place where there’s no stress. And the teachers have a proper education for working with children with special needs and a great understanding for them.” -Mother, Mjölby, Sweden
“My child is finally in a school situation that I actually consider ideal. In her current school, there are no more than 3-4 students per class. 2 teachers with special education backgrounds work in each class. Each table in the classroom is protected by a screen. They have a kitchen where the students can eat their lunch. Eating in the canteen is impossible for my child. If you have problems with the school lunch, you can bring food from home. They have a relaxation room where you can snuggle up under a blanket if you’re having a bad day. The teaching is completely adapted to the individual and regularly discussed and adjusted in close collaboration with the student and parents. And best of all: the school has specially trained support dogs that help with both mental wellness and studying. The key for my daughter to be able to integrate back into school was that the ‘inskolning’ consisted of going for walks with the dogs around the school yard. Before this, she was not even able to go near a school for more than 18 months. Now, for the first time ever, I have heard her say “I had a great time in school!” or “We had so much fun during the break”. This school program is amazing. It proves that it can be done. The vice principal told me that the dogs have helped a number of children get back to school after months or years of staying home. I wish this program was available everywhere. I understand that these types of programs are expensive, but that cost is nothing compared to the cost to the society and individual when these children are deprived of schooling and socialising”. -Mother, Tyresö, Sweden
“That the school acknowledges all children’s needs and adapts accordingly. That need governs, not finances. That my child should will be seen according to his needs and be able to cope with his schooling” -Mother, Stockholm, Sweden
“That we ourselves as parents could decide how to educate our son, for example home schooling etc. We are so locked into a system in Sweden that obviously does not work for many children, so creating more effective ways to encourage our children to learn and at the same time maintain their health.” -Mother, Västra Götaland, Sweden
“That staff are given the conditions to be flexible so that they can meet the child’s needs. That the working environment for the staff is good. Happy and satisfied staff who receive support from management to manage their work responsibilities. Today, on the contrary, staff are stressed without a chance to meet the individual.” Mother, Stockholm region, Sweden
“See the strengths of the child and work with them to acheive their full capacity.” -Mother, Hässleholm, Sweden
“See the individual.” -Mother, Örebro, Sweden
“Flexibility based on the individual.” -Mother, Strömstad, Sweden
“The school should be accessible to all individuals, which it is not now. The inclusion principle that the new school claims to work by is obviously not working. It is not inclusion to force students with, for example, ADHD, Autism into regular classes. Reintroduce special classes such as autism / ADHD classes in a calm, adapted environment. Provide training for educators to work with neuropsychiatric disabilites. Work with guardians as they know their children best and have a lot of knowledge instead of punishing hard-working parents with fines and reports. Help instead with adaptations designed according to the child.” -Mother, Sweden
“I would like “compulsory schooling” (skolplikt)to be reformulated into all children’s “right to education”. What that right looks like is different based on individual! Everyone is different! Differences are good!
Some children learn best via computer at home, coaching and being able to do things at their own pace. For some, it can be more effective for learning to sit at home in peace and quiet! A task that, for example, would be done divided into several lessons / weeks on school premises can be completed in one day, with full focus without a distracting environment around.
“The school of the future needs to be adapted to the needs that exist today.” –Mother, Sölvesborg, Sweden
“I actually had an ideal school situation for my child for a very short period. My son’s ability to function in the classroom and small groups was dependent on his motivation and mood in the moment. He had been granted 1 to 1 assistance, divided between a special education teacher and a paraeducator. He also had his own personal room for lessons. What made the situation ideal was that his personal room was located adjacent to both the classroom and the group room. His teacher/para could easily decide which situation matched his motivation and mood at the moment, and he was less isolated.” –Mother, Lillestrøm, Norway
“I would want my child’s school to see all of him. To see a child who needs to have the energy to have some sort of life outside of school too. To see that he struggles even when he doesn’t show it.” –Mother, Uppsala, Sweden
“In my future school vision, the situation is as follows: No one forces the parents to send the children to school but rather they force the school to adapt to the student. It is mandatory for the school to follow the law when it comes to adaptations and special support, regardlesss of who owns the school or where it is located. “Classrooms” are unusual, the school is activity-based and age-mixed without homework or grades. It is based on each student’s individual interests and needs. The children learn mainly through practical exercises, play and experiments. The school day begins with breakfast.” -Mother, Stockholm, Sweden
“1) That compulsory schooling was changed to compulsory education.
2) More resource schools
3) More educated adults in school- teachers special educators, school nurse, leisure educators speech therapist school hosts. Adult presence must increase.
4) That all new schools that are built have NPF in the floor plans. Smaller cloakroom, better soundproofing / less noise in the dining room, etc.
5) That the municipality must not cut back and save as much as possible. When will all the thousands of children with mental illness and cuts in school be accounted for? Today’s school creates insecure children who become broken adults who we then need a lot of resources to fix so they do not become dangerous instead of building safe environment for children from scratch.” -Mother, Stenungsund, Sweden
“I wish stress wasn’t seen as a necessary evil, something to endure, to get used to. I wish there was a broader understanding that the stress caused by insufficient support of an autistic child does not lead to growth. It does not lead to them being better able to cope.” –Mother, Kopparberg, Sweden
“1) compulsory education instead of compulsory schooling
2) educational diversity – homeschooling, democratic schools, Agile Learning centers, unschooling, etc.
As well as the opportunity to study at a distance (full-time or part-time or individual courses).” -Mother, Stockholm
“If the school is to continue to be “inclusive”, everything must be npf-adapted. There should be more resource schools where the child can choose to go. But all schools should be designed so that all children fit in it. The school must see the child’s needs. The school’s main requirement should be to teach all children and then there must be opportunities for all children to learn. There should also be preventive measures, not measures for when the child has already crashed.
Warm rooms that feel cozy with lighting that is calm and fewer students per classroom. Opportunity for breaks. Opportunity for more small rooms for students to take a break or have a moment of quiet in. Opportunity to read topics in other ways than jumping from one to the other, as theme-based or one topic at a time. More responsibility from adults even during breaks. Calmer environments for example in the dining room and corridors. That all teachers have education and know about npf diagnoses. That there is time for staff to provide for children who need more time. That there is zero tolerance for bullying and all schools actively make efforts at all times to get rid of bullying.
But above all, I have an idea that there is a need for an effective body where you can report a school, which conducts an investigation immediately. Where schools that misbehave receive significant fines immediately (not that it takes years). It is not a parent who has to pursue a case against a school, but an independent body. The instance must continue to pursue the matter despite having changed schools. It feels like schools are profiting from not doing what they are supposed to do, but thinking primarily about the economy. The schools should instead benefit financially from giving all children who need help help, even if it costs a lot.” –Mother Växjö, Sweden
“I want all children to feel seen, to be given the opportunity to become the best version of themselves. Not to be expected to be anything else and feel unsuccessful when it does not happen.” -Mother Halmstad, Sweden
“Small school unit, small classes, well-insulated and cozy premises. The staff must have good knowledge of autism. They must have education and experience of working with children with autism and know how to find solutions when problems arise or at best even be able to prevent common problems such as lack of energy or concentration. The school must take its own responsibility. They should not threaten parents to report to the Social Services when the student is not coping in the school. The staff must have a positive attitude towards the students and be sensitive to the individual student’s needs.” -Father, Båstad, Sweden