Tracey (mother of 2 children, 1 with autism): Jack could have gone to school when he turned five at the beginning of this year, but I went to some school readiness talks. So that was my decision to keep him one year longer at preschool. And it’s been a really good decision, because now he’s actually making friends better, and he’s doing activities at preschool that he didn’t do the previous year, so I think that that extra year is going to help him so much.
Laudie (mother of 3 children, 1 with autism): From Jonathon’s diagnosis, we were eligible for a case worker. She helped us to find certain schools for Jonathon that would benefit him. She was a fantastic resource to have because without her, I wouldn’t have been able to... I wouldn’t have known where to start.
Elena (mother of 3 children, 2 with autism): No one thinks that, when you have three boys, that they’ll all end up at different schools. But that’s what’s happened to us. One at an autism class at primary school... the local primary school, and one at a special school.
Laudie: Jonathon was at the early intervention for a year and a half, and while we had his name down at the autism association, we were on a waiting list there. They had a specialised teacher come out from the school to see Jonathon in the early intervention setting.
Sandra (mother of 2 children with autism): The next challenge in our lives, which was Kingsley starting school for the first time. And I have to say it was probably one of the most challenging, difficult periods since his diagnosis.
Laudie: The transition ah... for Jonathon, from early intervention to school, which was going to be two days a early intervention to five days at school, was a huge change for our whole family. It meant letting go of Jonathon for five days a week, getting transport – him going with someone in a car, that he really didn’t know... ah, that was a really huge step.
Tracey: Because he’s been in mainstream preschool, I was hoping to integrate him into a mainstream school, um... but he’s a bolter, and um... he’s really fast. When I first started looking at schools for Jack, I mentioned the issue of the fencing to the principal. They’ve offered me aid time for recess and lunchtime but for Jack it’s unsatisfactory because he’s got away from me and got on a double lane highway.
Alison (mother of 3 children, 1 with autism): Flynn was accepted into a... um, an autism satellite class.
Elena: When Jack started kindergarten, um.. he actually started at a Department of Education special school. The year before, we thought he was fairly mildly autistic, we thought he may be able to handle a mainstream school. Um... but after doing a little bit of integration with the school, we kind of realised that... it might not be our best option. Even though he may have had some academic skills, and wasn’t behind as much academically, certainly socially, and um... the language wasn’t good enough, um... to start school unaided.
Sandra: I was told that there was a finite number of children in that special needs class, and that there were no places available. And they were pointing me to other schools, um... in far flung suburbs, that would have taken an hour for Kingsley to actually get to.
Alison: If you go to a satellite class, and there’s a lot of travelling involved, you get transport. Which is fantastic, but um... so does, a lot of other kids get the same transport, so there’s a lot of places that you have to stop before you get to the destination. So we can be in the car for an hour.
Sandra: My only contact with them would be, oh my child’s at school there, but I wouldn’t see people at the library or the shops or anything like that.
Alison: We basically just begged, you know, he didn’t want to do all this travelling, and we were worried about high school.
Sandra: I kept following that process, which is what the Department of Ed was sort of channelling me down, but at the same time, I was lobbying the school I wanted too, independently. We finally got the placement that I had been looking for, which was a school very close by that was a mixture of special needs and mainstream.
Laudie: Steve and I found it really difficult to let go, um... I’d be crying as soon as Jonathon got in that car to go, it was... just, it was like losing someone so precious. The teachers actually thought of a communication book, which I have contact with every day, the teacher would write down what Jonathon did throughout his day, because Jonathon couldn’t communicate that to his parents, so we had an idea, and that communication book was actually so important.
Elena: He’s happy to put his uniform on and be taken somewhere because Jack loves going in the car. I think he knows when the uniform’s on, he’s going to school. Sometimes when he gets out of the car, he sort of makes a few little noises that he’d rather not be there.
Sandra: They also gave me a really extended transition so I could come in as often as I liked with Kingsley, to get him used to the place before he started. They helped me with all the visuals that I wanted, and this was new for them, they weren’t used to some mother coming in with her camera and photographing everything that they did, so I could develop a social story for Kingsley, because he’s very good with things that are routine. So he knew the names of all the teachers, and I actually tracked what their day was, what day Kingsley would experience, you know, what time they did morning tea, how long it took, where they sat, when they, you know, toileted. So the whole kit and caboodle.
Jerry (mother of 2 children, 1 with autism): Daniel was eight, he turned too wild, so I received a requirement from school, Daniel needs medication. Naturopath designed special diet for him. Daniel has become... more calmer, more listening, every teacher can see it works.
Alison: He’s in a class now where he has to do his own worksheets, he has to go to the canteen himself, and that’s what we wanted.
Sandra: I always vividly recall the school telling me that, you know, it was great for them to have Kingsley, because the other children were able to learn about diversity, and embrace that. And believe me, he was invited to parties. In fact, the girls fought over who was going to sit next to him and help him.