NUMBER 948 • 24 APRIL • definition of need
Which needs do referring agents and other key professionals expect will be met within the residential facility at St. Joseph’s?
Over half of health board and of school attendance applications for placements stressed client need for special education. Of probation and welfare applications, eighty-five percent prioritised client need for special residential education resources. Clearly, special resources related to issues such as academic attainment and classroom management, and were viewed as a central part of maximising the potential for progress. The present sample needed special schooling which would provide opportunities to catch up academically. The young people needed small class sizes and individual attention to be helped with specific learning needs. They needed the facilitation of specially trained residential staff to help minimise the incidence of danger and facilitate the creation of an environment which would enhance the conditions needed for academic learning, achievement, and personal and social development.
‘A consistent and structured environment’
Eighty percent of all referring agents were seeking a consistent and structured environment for their clients. This requirement included the opportunity for clients to experience predictability within their daily individual and group routines, and the availability of adults who would set kind yet firm limits.
‘Security and stability’
Over half of the thirty referring agents prioritised the need the security and stability in the lives of their clients. This definition included welfare needs, the conditions required to promote the formation of peer and adult attachments and to manage the give and take of relationships. Significantly, of the school attendance referrals, over eighty percent were viewed as having these needs.
‘Care and control’
Almost a third of the overall sample were considered to be in need of care and control - this figure represented health board cases in the main. Again, such needs would include consistent, responsible parenting and increased external controls for children and young people who were presenting with problem-solving, anger control and a range of other learning, psychosocial and behavioural problems. The knowledge and experience of referring agents and key professionals pointed to the fact that care, control and education offered within such a residential facility was the only option available to this identifiable group of children and young people who could not be facilitated elsewhere. The lack of resources available to such children and their families in their own communities required an institutional response to both their needs and the need for society to avoid the nuisance value which they presented.
Gleeson, J. (1999) The residential school for special needs: selection and referral process and the therapeutic milieu. Northern Ireland Journal of Multi-Disciplinary Child Care Practice, Vol. 5 (1), pp.51-52