Special Schools Report: How Parents of Children with Disability Can Prepare for School
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Published by TOP4 Team
Starting school is an exciting new stage in life for a child — and for their parents. Finding the right school is always a matter of careful consideration, and if you're a parent of a child with disability, you will find that the process of selecting a special school will require more of your involvement and input.
To help you make sufficient preparations for your child, here are tips that can guide you in finding the right school for his individual needs:
1. About 12 months prior to your child starting school, it's best to get in touch with your local school or regional office so that your child's educational and support needs can be discussed with the relevant staff.
2. Keep in mind that if your child has unique physical access needs, it's best to contact the local school or regional office much earlier — two years prior to starting school. This gives the school an opportunity to identify your specific needs and get the appropriate infrastructure ready for your child by the time he starts school.
3. Generally, you have three options for your child's education: attending the local school, attending a special class in a regular school, or attending a special school, called a school for specific purposes. The school principal, the school's learning and support team, and the local regional DEC office can help you make the right selection. Make sure to bring all recent medical assessments to share and discuss with departmental staff.
4. In regular schools, there are categories of targeted support classes which include: emotional disturbance/mental health; hearing; autism; physical disability; mild, severe, and moderate and severe intellectual disability, and multi-categorical (moderate/high support needs).
In schools for specific purposes, the diverse and complex learning needs of children with disability are catered to, and intensive levels of support in specialised settings are provided for children who need them. The categories of schools that cater to students with additional learning support needs include: behaviour disorder/emotional disturbance/mental health; hospital; physical disability; intellectual disability; vision or hearing impairment, and Juvenile Justice schools.
5. Remember that enrolment in a regular school is done through the local school, while enrolment in a special class or a special school is done through a process called the regional placement panel.
6. Get together with members of your support network (which can include family, friends, your child's paediatrician and GP, disability network, advocacy group, psychologist, speech pathologist, occupational therapist, etc.) along with other parents of children with disability so you can talk about their experiences and what to expect in school.