Audit Shows Special Needs Kids In Am. Samoa Underserved

admin's picture

Advisory council welcomes issues being brought into the open

By Joyetter Feagaimaalii-Luamanu

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Oct. 27, 2014) – Chairman of the local advisory council for the protection of individuals with disabilities has described the Special Education audit report as a "breath of fresh air" in bringing out the issues faced by the Department of Education children with special needs in American Samoa.

Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities (PADD) Advisory Council chairman John Raynar also says that separate efforts are underway to set up a parent support group to help children with special needs.

According to the 75-page audit report, which was conducted by an off island team, and ordered by Education director Vaitinasa Dr. Salu Hunkin-Finau, there were two problems that became apparent during the team's revue: lack of competent personnel and lack of supervision.

Responding to Samoa News questions, Raynar said they had met with ASDOE and mutually agreed that there are serious issues with the Special Education Division (SPED), and the audit outlines what those problems are. He also said that ASDOE is in the process of making SPED more accountable.

"The reality is that the special needs children.. .in American Samoa are being extremely underserved," Raynar said. "I personally know of one person who has an autistic child that had to move off island because that parent was unable to get adequate care here for their child."

"It’s actually really sad, that the person and his children had a life carved out for themselves in American Samoa and were great contributors to the territory, but were forced to leave because they couldn’t get the right care, even though SPED gets an annual federal allocation of over $4 Million, of which over 80% goes toward payroll/personnel," he said. (The federal allocation is cited in the audit report).

"Apparently, these kids have been neglected for many years, so it is a breath of fresh air that DOE has requested the audit to find out what they need to do to fix these problems. I am cautiously optimistic," he said and noted that he has been in contact with directors of ASDOE and the Office of Protectional and Advocacy for the Disabled (OPAD) and they are working together to address all these important issues dealing with SPED.

He also stressed that the council works in an advisory capacity to OPAD, and several people on the council have children with special needs.

He also says that ASDOE will be meeting with the council in January next year to review the changes that are suggested in the SPED audit.

To further aid children with special needs, Raynar says that an organization called the Parents of Special Needs Children Network/Support Group will meet Wednesday, Oct. 29, at 5p.m. at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

This support group hopes to gather and begin a parent network/support group among all parents and caregivers of children — of any age — with special needs, he said and noted the group’s hope is to join together to provide these kids with special events, such as swimming lessons, sports, etc.

Additionally, they intend to support local efforts to provide superior educational services and therapies. "This is a new effort and everyone is welcome to help organize and develop what will be something really special!," he said.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment