When the time comes for your child to start school it can be an emotional experience for any family. When a child has a disability there is even more to think about. Planning ahead and exploring what options are available can ensure children with disabilities are able to access the most appropriate school to meet their needs.
Obligations for pre-schools, kindergartens, public and private schools (not childcare centres) to ensure that children with disabilities are able to access education and receive appropriate assistance falls under the Federal Government’s Disability Discrimination Act Education Standards 2005. (These standards also apply to further education providers such as TAFE, universities, private colleges and Registered Training Organisations).
- Have you considered whether your child should attend a mainstream school, or private school with additional support of an education assistant?
- Do you think your child could benefit from being taught in an Education Support Unit at a mainstream school?
- Would specialist education in a school specifically for children with disabilities be more appropriate?
- Are you aware of support available in your State from a Visiting Teacher Service through Vision, Deaf and/or Deafblind Education Services?
The following links may be useful resources when considering education for your child. Disability Standards for Education – Nationally Consistent Collection of Data (nccd.edu.au): Produced by Education Services Australia and authorised by the Australian Government, Canberra.
Disability rights and responsibilities (education.vic.gov.au): Produced by the Victorian State Government Department of Education and Training.
The needs of your child in respect of their sensory impairment must be taken into account as outlined in the following text taken from a report “Strategies to Support the Education of Students with Disabilities in Australian Schools – Report to Minister Peter Garrett AM MP, Minister for School Education, from the students with disabilities working group, 15 December 2010”.
“… States Parties shall enable persons with disabilities to learn life and social development skills to facilitate their full and equal participation in education and as members of the community. To this end, States Parties shall take appropriate measures, including:
(a) Facilitating the learning of Braille, alternative script, augmentative and alternative modes, means and formats of communication and orientation and mobility skills, and facilitating peer support and mentoring;
(b) Facilitating the learning of sign language and the promotion of the linguistic identity of the deaf community;
(c) Ensuring that the education of persons, and in particular children, who are Blind, Deaf or deafblind, is delivered in the most appropriate languages and modes and means of communication for the individual, and in environments which maximise academic and social development.
(d) In order to help ensure the realisation of this right, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to employ teachers, including teachers with disabilities, who are qualified in sign language and/or Braille, and to train professionals and staff who work at all levels of education. Such training shall incorporate disability awareness and the use of appropriate augmentative and alternative modes, means and formats of communication, educational techniques and materials to support persons with disabilities …” (Students with disabilities working group, 2010).
The following are just some of the questions you may wish to ask in relation to accessibility and the needs of a child who is deafblind when checking suitability of schools. Will the school:
- be able to accommodate teaching your child consistently using communication system(s) that are in place?
- be flexible in their teaching methods and address your child’s individual communication needs?
- be willing to work closely with Visiting Teachers and therapists?
- support the child in using specialist equipment as recommended?
- implement recommendations made by other professionals?
- support staff to learn Auslan or Key Word Sign or tactile forms of communication?
- support staff to learn how to use communication devices, low tech and high tech magnification equipment that will support your child’s communication and learning?
- ensure teachers use assistive listening devices consistently for children/students who are hard of hearing?
- prepare teaching materials in an appropriate format such as large print or Braille?
- identify the continuing developmental needs of your child?
- enable independence skills such as orientation and mobility (O&M) training, working with O&M specialists to reinforce skills where appropriate?
- identify and arrange appropriate awareness training in relation to your child’s needs?
Students with disabilities working group. (2010, December 15). Strategies to support the education of students with disabilities in Australian schools: Report to Minister Peter Garrett AM MP, Minister for School Education. Retrieved from http://www.deewr.gov.au/Schooling/Programs/Documents/SWDWGpaperFinal.pdf