Saturday, March 01, 2008

Seizures and other health problems in children are rising!

The number of school pupils with health problems such as life-threatening allergies, diabetes, asthma or seizures has almost tripled in the past six years.

Last year 149 students - including 66 five-year-olds - qualified for the government's High Health Needs Fund. The Ministry of Education refuses to disclose how much money is involved or to release a report, written last July, on the increasing demand for the fund.

Statistics obtained by the Sunday Star-Times under the Official Information Act show that in 2001, only 54 pupils qualified for the grant.

It is mostly younger children, particularly five and six-year-olds, pushing the numbers up.

The ministry says the jump in numbers may be due to increased awareness of the fund.

The fund is intended for severe cases only, and provides teacher aides to help with tasks such as responding to allergy or bleeding disorder crises, monitoring blood sugar and helping children shower or toilet.

The aides also help with wheelchairs or crutches, and ensure classrooms are safe for those with allergies - for example, making sure there are no rubber bands in a classroom if a child is allergic to latex.

Children who suffer infrequent seizures, or who need insulin only a few times each day, will not qualify.

Most of those qualifying over the past six years have needed help with toileting, allergies, seizures, diabetes and feeding.

Other categories include cancer, skin care, bleeding disorders, recuperation from surgery, heart and lung disorders, mobility assistance and fragility.

The ministry flagged the increasing numbers late last year, in briefing papers to the minister of education, but stopped short of taking a paper to cabinet which was initially planned.


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