Multi-sensory impairments

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By Colin Anderson

What are the pros and cons of mainstream and special schools for children with multi-sensory impairments? Colin Anderson, Publishing Manager from Sense describes some of the main factors.


The debate about `inclusive’ education arouses strong emotions.

Some argue passionately that all children should go to mainstream schools – regardless of their level of disability. They believe that including disabled children in ordinary schools, when well-resourced and managed, benefits all children.

Others argue that it is not as straightforward as this and that children with complex needs will often need the facilities and teachers that a special school can provide.

One of the key factors in finding a school for a child is the nature and severity of their disability. Sense supports children with a wide range of difficulties, and has many years’ experience of supporting children with a combination of sight and hearing impairments – also known as deafblindness. Many children will also have other physical and learning disabilities to deal with and may have fragile health. These children are described as having multi-sensory impairments (MSI)

Multi-sensory impairments

Sense also supports children who are born deaf or hard of hearing, and then develop tunnel vision and night blindness in their teens as a result of a condition called Usher syndrome.

For the parents of the children that Sense supports, their choice will usually be guided by practical considerations – they simply want to find the best school for their child. They may have a personal preference for a mainstream or special school but their decision will be affected by many factors – by their child’s disability, by the quality of the schools available locally, by the attitudes of teachers and how much funding for support they can get.

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