30 May 2019

Special needs teacher suffers permanent damage after incident

7:36 am on 30 May 2019

A Southland teacher of children with special needs says she's one of many who've suffered physical attacks because of a lack of classroom support.

An empty primary school classroom.

Photo: 123rf

Lou Dickson marched in the teachers' strike yesterday for more resources to help her students - and to make her work safer.

She said she had been left with permanent nerve damage after a 15-year-old with severe autism punched her in the back last October.

"He came up behind me, raised his arm - he's six-foot tall, I'm five-foot-one and a bit; dropped his arm into the centre of my back; I face-planted into the desk with horrific pain and the outcome is permanent nerve-damage now from the impact of the punch."

The attack happened last October and she was still having physiotherapy, Mrs Dickson said.

But it's not the first time she has been injured by an agitated student.

"Eighteen months ago, another (severely) autistic child lost the plot a little bit; he was over-sensitised in the room, lost it and just started punching and kicking me and just managed to get me on the side, dislocated my knee-cap and put me on crutches."

Another of her students is a child who is non-verbal and used a wheelchair, who had seizures up to 50 times a day, sometimes requiring an ambulance.

"She's at school for 32 hours a week and she gets 18 hours of teacher-aid funding, and the ministry say it's OK for her to be in my classroom with me, with two high-needs autistic boys that can kick off, and at times I have to deal with all that with no teacher aid. "

She said special education students needed more teacher-aid hours, and better-designed classrooms to keep them calm and teachers and students safe.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs