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Educational Issues

Children with Erbs Palsy may be entitled to receive support in various forms to help them on their education journey. This short information note has been prepared by the Erbs Palsy Association of Ireland. It is being issued, having been reviewed by the appropriate Agency, the National Council for Special Education, to ensure that parents can be made aware of the supports children with special education needs can receive. This Information Sheet does not set out to outline the specific supports for particular levels of injury for particular children as this should be done on an individual child case. The Association appreciates the support of the Council in the preparation of this information sheet.

Special Needs Supports

There are various types of support potentially available to children with Erbs Palsy.

These include:

  • Access to Assistive Technology (e.g. a lap top);

  • Access to a Special Needs Assistant in the class room:

  • Access to Resource Teacher support in the School;

  • Access to Special Schooling in a Special School or a Special Class Environment.

The nature and extent of support will be determined on the specific needs of the particular child. This will involve the parents of the child, and the relevant school and the National Council for Special Education. Ultimately the Department for Education and Science in the form of the Minister for Education and Science will hold responsibility for the provision of the necessary level of resources to facilitate the education needs of each child.

These needs in the first instance should be discussed with the child’s teacher or alternatively the Principal Teacher. An accompanying information sheet for teachers on Erbs Palsy has been prepared by the Association. This may be given to the relevant teacher and Principal to help them to understand the nature and extent of injuries associated with Erbs and the child’s resulting needs. Once this has been established the School can follow the guidance of both the Department and the National Council in getting the appropriate level of support for the child, having regard to the nature and extent of the injury.

The National Council for Special Education

The National Council for Special Education is a body set up by the Government to improve the delivery of education services to all people having a special education need as a result of them having a disability. The Council has a particular focus on children but it is important to know that it does address education issues for all people with a disability having need of education services.

The Council’s web site is The Council can be contacted by phone at 046 9486400 or can be written to at 1-2 Mill Street, Trim, County Meath.

Given the widespread nature of disability in Ireland, the Council has set up a County based network of Special Education Needs Organisers. These organisers, contact details of which are attached, have been appointed to provide direct support to parents of children with special education needs and to the schools within their geographic areas.

As such the Special Education Needs Organiser will in many instances be the first person to contact, other than the child’s teacher, in regard to addressing the particular needs of the child. A useful information sheet on the role of the Special Education Needs Organiser can be downloaded from the Councils web site (hyperlink here for the electronic version).

It is important that parents know they can contact the relevant Special Education Needs Organiser directly and that each organiser will work with the parents to ensure that as far as possible any supports that are relevant to the child are brought to the child as quickly as possible.

Other Information

The National Council for Special Education is now, through the Special Education Needs Organiser, the principal information source for parents with children with special education needs including children with Erbs Palsy. In addition, it might be worth while accessing the web site of the Department of Education and Science which, in addition to having a lot of useful information on education generally in Ireland across all levels, includes particular circulars issued to Boards of Management on special education needs. The most relevant of these include Sp Ed 01/05 (link here) and 02/05 (link here).

ERBS PALSY and it' effects on School Children

Some Information about this Condition.

Erbs Palsy is an injury suffered by a baby in the course of being born. It is a physical injury. The range and scale of its effects go from full paralysis of the affected shoulder, arm and hand in the worst cases to the more fortunate cases where the effects are relatively mild. The reason why the child with Erbs Palsy is physically impaired is because the nerves which lead from the top of the spinal cord to the shoulder, arm and hand are stretched, ruptured or avulsed from the spinal cord, depending on the extent of the injuries. If the nerves are avulsed there is no recovery. If the nerves are stretched there may be much better recovery and if they are ruptured there may be some limited recovery.

  • Practical difficulties experienced by a child with Erbs Palsy in the school environment

  • In practical terms Erbs Palsy presents the following difficulties for a school child;

  • Loss of power makes everyday actions difficult or impossible, depending on the degree of injury.

Personal issues

Tying laces, fastening buttons, putting up hair, tightening belts, putting on socks and other routine dressing actions requiring both hands are impaired. Dressing after sports such as swimming can be frustrating and upsetting as drying oneself is difficult for the able-bodied but more so for the child with Erbs. Cubicles are small and time constraints on teachers can make an otherwise enjoyable and fun activity fraught with difficulty.

Opening tops, twisting off caps or sharpening pencils will be impossible for many children with Erbs Palsy. Normally their school friends will quickly realise this and they will automatically assist the Erbs child. Allow this to happen but provide discreet assistance if required. 


Opening doors while carrying something in the uninjured hand will be much more difficult or impossible.


If the child is injured in the natural writing hand this makes writing more difficult and slower. The quality of writing may be below the expected level. We recommend that the child is given a little more time to complete the writing task if s/he needs the time. If the child wishes to use a writing aid to improve writing ability, please allow her/him to do so.

Physical activities

The Erbs child may be conscious of the physical appearance of the injured arm or hand. This may be particularly evident at PE class. Do not restrict the child’s activities, provided the child is not at risk of damaging himself/herself. The Erbs child will be at a clear disadvantage in taking part in certain sports. However, the child may still wish to take part in the sport. The Association recommends that the Erbs child is allowed to play the sport to the best of his/her ability.

School bags

School bags can be very difficult to manage if a child has Erbs Palsy. This becomes especially so if the child has to climb stairs. The child may need some assistance so that the uninjured shoulder, arm and hand are not damaged over time. School bags on wheels can help to some extent.

Class room assistance

There are some subjects in school where the loss of the full use of a hand means the Erbs child has obvious difficulties in performing tasks when compared to a child with full use of both hands. We would recommend that the school avail of whatever assistance is available to enable the child with Erbs Palsy perform to the best of his/her ability in any given subject. This would include employing special needs assistants, where necessary. The National Council for Special Education ( has responsibility for providing additional teaching and other resources for children with special educational needs. Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) in the Council deal with applications for and assigning resources to schools with needs for teachers and special needs assistants for children with special educational needs. The Association recommends that no Erbs child is refused the opportunity to take any subject without the school having exhausted the possibility of additional resources from the Council.


In sitting examinations the Erbs child will perhaps need more time because of the difficulties in writing. The child may require more frequent breaks because of the strain that writing with an adopted writing hand may present to the child. Any special requests must be made to the Department of Education well in advance of the child sitting a State examination. Parents will want to discuss their child’s options in this context with the teacher when the child starts studying for State examinations.


One of the major concerns for a parent of a child with Erbs palsy is the possibility that, because of the disability, the child will be subject to physical, verbal or psychological bullying either at school or getting to and from school. The Association recommend that parents approach the school Principal prior to the child’s first day of attendance and discuss their concerns with the Principal. We ask that teachers remain aware of the possibility of subtle bullying of Erbs children, even if the injury is not severe or especially noticeable.

General comment

In requesting that every consideration be given to assisting a child with Erbs Palsy in performing at school the Association wishes merely to ensure the provision of a level playing field for that child so that she/he can perform to the best of her/his ability by reducing the impact of the Erbs injuries. We are not seeking an advantage for the Erbs child over any other child.

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