Children with special educational needs
We are committed to ensuring that every child, including those with special educational needs, has access to a high quality education.
Education is a vital part of your children’s lives. It gives them the opportunity to learn and socialise with others, and develop friendships and the tools they need to become active members of their communities.
Choosing the right school for your children is an important decision and you should consider all the options, especially if you have a child with special educational needs.
- Who can I speak with if I think my child has special educational needs?
- Support for my child at school
- Which school is right for my child?
- Discussing my child’s needs
- Support services for schools
- Sharing information about my child
It is important that you are actively invested in all stages of your child’s educational development.
If you think your child has special educational needs, you should consult your family doctor, paediatrician or other professional with expertise in this area.
If your child is already enrolled in school you should speak with their teacher, the school psychologist and principal.
Your child may need to undergo an assessment to confirm a diagnosis.
If your child is found to have special educational needs or a learning disability, a support team will be established. The support team includes yourself and may include your child’s teacher, principal, school psychologist, medical practitioners and specialist service providers.
Together, you will determine the support services and programs that are right for your child, ensuring they receive the best education and support available, tailored to their unique needs.
School staff will help you if your child requires an individual education plan. This plan is written specifically for your child to address their academic and personal needs. All staff working with your child at school will use the plan. Your input to the planning process is very important and regular reviews will be conducted to ensure the plan is current and relevant.
Your child may not need an individual education plan however most children who require a lot of changes to their education program or their environment will need one. This plan is necessary as the school receives an allocation for your child under the new student-centred funding model, where funding is provided based on the needs, and the teaching and learning requirements of your child.
Your child may also need a health care plan if they require health care support. Talk with a staff member at your school about the details of your child’s health needs. You will need to complete a student health care summary and staff at your school can help you with this.
As a parent you want to choose the school that best suits your child, your family and your individual circumstances. The best school for your child may be your local school, an education support school, an education support centre, or a primary or secondary school with specialist facilities and programs for students with disability. Early intervention programs for children with autism are also available in some schools. In the early years of schooling, a combination of these may be suitable.
Local schools have access to specialist teachers and school psychology services and resources, giving your child the support needed to participate in an education that fully develops their knowledge, skills and understandings.
At your local school your child is educated with their peers in an inclusive environment. Your principal may also create a special program or class that caters for your child.
If necessary, the physical school environment may be modified so your child can access facilities, to gain the most out of their school experience physically, socially and academically.
Education support schools are specialist schools for children from the beginning of Kindergarten to the final year of their schooling. Your child has access to multi-disciplinary teams including nursing and therapy staff. Specialist teachers and support staff are dedicated to ensuring your child receives an appropriate and responsive learning program in a safe and accessible environment.
Specialist facilities including therapy rooms, multi-sensory environments, independent living centres, swimming pools and ‘access all’ playgrounds add to your child’s learning experiences. There are primary, secondary and combined primary and secondary education support schools, depending on where you live.
Secondary education support schools have well developed links with outside organisations, training organisations and the Disability Services Commission to ensure your child’s transition from school to further training or work is as seamless as possible.
Education support centres are located on the grounds of local primary and secondary schools. In addition to the individualised programs delivered by specialist staff, your child benefits from interacting and participating in programs with their local school peers. Centre staff run a range of facilities and support services that cater to the specific needs of your child. Some external organisations provide therapy services for eligible children. Some centres also offer early specialist programs for children with autism spectrum disorder.
Education support and early intervention programs for children with autism are also offered within and part of mainstream primary and secondary schools. Children participating in these programs have many opportunities to interact with mainstream students as part of their education. The programs have specialist facilities onsite, access to therapy services provided by a range of organisations and small class sizes. School staff will also assist with creating an individual education plan for your child. Enrolment depends on where you live. Programs for Kindergarten and Pre-primary children with autism are also offered at specific mainstream schools in the metropolitan area.
Language development centres provide specialist early intervention programs for children who have diagnosed speech and language impairments.
For information on how to enrol your child if they have a special learning need, please refer to Enrolling in school.
Once your child is settled in to school, regular communication with the teacher and other support staff is very important.
The best way to make sure everyone is informed about your child’s needs is to make an appointment with the principal to discuss plans for your child. Remember to take copies of relevant documentation which the principal may want to keep on file.
The following will help ensure meetings are mutually beneficial:
- Give staff feedback on the work they are doing with your child. Let them know when you are pleased and where you feel things could be improved.
- Make a list of any issues or concerns you have.
- Share the progress and success you have observed with your child’s education program.
- Let the teacher/s know how your child is feeling about school, their friends and achievements.
- Take a support person with you if needed.
- Bring your latest specialists’ or therapists’ reports and other assessments.
- You and your child’s teacher/s should agree on planned actions and desired outcomes, and when these actions should be reviewed.
- Generally, a staff member will take a record of the meeting. You may ask to be provided with this information or you may choose to take notes yourself.
- If you are not satisfied for any reason, speak firstly with your teacher and then with the principal.
If required, specialist services may help your child’s teacher develop your child’s individual education and health care plan.
These specialist services include:
- School of Special Educational Needs: Disability
- School of Special Educational Needs: Medical and Mental Health
- School of Special Educational Needs: Sensory (Vision and Hearing)
- Statewide School Psychology Service
- Statewide Speech and Language Service.
These services have strong community partnerships and links to other services that can also support your child and your family.
Staff at your school will be able to help you find out about the services and support your child may have access to.
School of Special Educational Needs: Disability
If your child attends the local public school, their teacher may receive direct support through the services offered by the School of Special Educational Needs: Disability. Depending on the needs of your child, support may include visits from Consulting Teachers as well as access to specialist equipment.
School of Special Educational Needs: Medical and Mental Health
This school provides education support for children whose medical or mental health prevents them from participating in their enrolled school program. Specialist teachers provide teaching in a hospital or at home. School staff may also facilitate your child’s return to school.
Support for your child depends on referral to the school by the Department of Health staff. However, if your child is at home for more than 10 days with a medical certificate they can be referred by your child’s school.
School of Special Educational Needs: Sensory (Vision and Hearing)
There are many options available if your child is deaf or hard of hearing, or has vision impairment. If your child attends the local public school, the visiting teacher service may provide assistance.
The vision education service offers information in other formats such as Braille and large print, and provides specialist equipment and home based early intervention programs for children under four years old.
If your child is deaf or hard of hearing, it can take time to determine what form of communication is right for them. The School of Special Educational Needs: Sensory offers spoken and signed communication at all stages of your child’s education. It also has an early childhood service, and audiological and psychology services.
Your child may also benefit from attending one of the following deaf education facilities:
- Mosman Park School for Deaf Children located at Mosman Park Primary School
- Belmont City College
- Shenton College Deaf Education Centre.
Statewide School Psychology Service
This service provides specialist psychological assessment, intervention and consultation services for schools. Support is provided in the main areas of behaviour, learning, and mental health and wellbeing. Support for schools is provided at the individual child, group and whole of school level.
Talk with your child’s teacher or the principal if you believe support from a school psychologist may be of assistance. School psychologists will consult with you and the school staff who are working with your child. They can also provide assessment services and links to other services.
You may find yourself accessing support from different groups, agencies and organisations. To get the best outcomes for your child, it is important to ensure these services all work together.
It is important for you to be organised and have a system in place to manage information about your child. You may consider keeping any or all of the following:
- diagnostic and general notes on your child’s condition
- details of the people involved in your child’s care including all specialists such as psychologists, speech pathologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and medical practitioners
- medical records and other health information including medication requirements
- school records including individual education plans, reports and copies of education assessments
- notes from meetings with school staff and other support people which outline desired outcomes
- any research about your child’s condition which may be useful to discuss with teachers
- notes on your aspirations for your child such as milestones you hope they will reach and learning outcomes you want them to achieve.
The Department of Education is bound by law to maintain and respect confidentiality when collecting, storing and sharing information. All schools maintain appropriate processes for keeping records safe. Limits to confidentiality do apply when information reveals a risk of harm to a child or any other person or property.