School support for your child with disability
Children with disability can get a range of support and funding for their primary school education.
The Disability Standards for Education in the Australian Disability Discrimination Act say that schools must make reasonable changes so that students with disability have the same educational opportunities and choices as all other students.
Funding programs for students with disability
There are specific funding programs for students with disability. What’s available, what the programs are called and how to apply will vary depending on which state or territory you live in and whether your child goes to a government, Catholic or independent school.
The three school systems have different policies about how funding can be used. In general, it can be used to employ an integration aide, but it can also be used for equipment, professional support and training. There are also some funding programs to support students with complex medical and personal care needs.
It’s a good idea to ask your child’s school about what funding your child might be able to get and how and when to apply.
Learning support for your child with disability
Here’s a guide to the learning support your child with disability might be able to get at primary school.
Student support group
A student support group (SSG) is a cooperative partnership between you, school representatives and professionals who work with your child.
The aim of an SSG is to make sure everyone works together to support your child’s educational needs. The group should meet regularly (about once a term) to plan, implement, monitor, review, evaluate and adjust your child’s individual learning plan and the support your child needs.
Individual learning plan
An individual learning plan is a document that sets out your child’s:
- existing skills
- learning needs and specific goals that can be accurately measured
- any adjustments or curriculum modifications
- personalised strategies and resources for developing skills and goals
- strategies to develop your child’s resilience and, if necessary, social skills.
The plan should talk about the learning areas in which your child needs extra support. It might also include information from professionals who work with your child. It should ensure that all teachers are aware of your child’s specific strengths and difficulties, so that there are both realistic and high expectations of your child’s progress.
Your child’s SSG will develop his individual learning plan.
Note that plans are called different things in different states and territories.
Other support plans
Your child might have other needs. These might include:
- medical needs – for example, tracheostomy care, tube feeding or medications
- personal care needs – for example, help with toileting or help at mealtimes
- other needs – for example, behaviour support needs or help with social interaction.
The school should develop plans for managing these needs. The plans should be clear about what needs to be done, when, by whom and where. Very importantly, it should also make sure that your child’s needs are managed in a safe, dignified and respectful way.
Integration aides are school staff who support students with additional needs. They work under the direction of the classroom teacher and do things like:
- supporting your child with classwork, including reading, writing, maths, art or sport
- helping with personal care
- supervising your child if there are safety concerns
- going to therapy sessions with your child so that therapy can be used in the classroom – for example, your child’s aide might learn how to use aids, equipment or speech therapy techniques
- preparing teaching materials like Social Stories™.
An integration aide can work with your child individually or in a group. The aide can also work with other children in the class when the teacher is working with your child.
Not all children with disability will need an integration aide. It will depend on your child’s individual circumstances. Encouraging independence and resilience is also important. For example, a student with high cognitive abilities but severe dyslexia might need multimedia options rather than an aide.
Non-teaching professionals might visit and work with your child at school. These professionals might include psychologists, social workers, speech pathologists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.
Some schools employ nurses or therapists on their staff. Some get professionals through their state or territory education authority. Others use private practitioners, funded by the relevant government program for students with disability.
A policy of inclusion
All schools need to have a written policy of inclusion, which shows that difference is valued and accepted and that there are high expectations of all students, including those with disability.
Home-based education support for your child
Most children with disability can go to school. But sometimes the severity of a child’s disability or the fragility of the child’s health means the child can’t go to school or has long periods away from school.
Some states and territories provide home-based education support programs for children with severe disabilities for the times when they can’t get to school.
These programs are developed by your child’s school in cooperation with you. Funding can help pay for:
- salaries of teachers, education support staff and specialist staff
- essential educational equipment.
The Australian Government also provides financial support for children who can’t go to school every day because of disability or health-related needs or because they live remotely.
Practical support for your child at school
Many schools are accessible by local bus routes, or have a relationship with a bus company that serves their area.
In some states and territories transport can be provided for children with disability to attend mainstream school if other transport options aren’t appropriate.
Many specialist schools have bus or taxi services that your child might be able to use.
In most states and territories the government has a school bus network to supply free bus transport to students living in regional areas. Some independent and Catholic schools have bus services for all students.
Your child might also be able to get a travel allowance from your state or territory education department, or have transport costs funded through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
Outside of school hours care
Outside of school hours (OOSH) care programs can get support and funding from the Australian Government to help them with creating an inclusive environment for children with disability. This funding can cover extra staff, resources, training or equipment.
Support for your child’s school
In some cases, funding support will go towards helping your child’s school with teacher professional development, so the staff can better support your child’s learning. Sometimes funding might help the school change its physical environment so your child can get around more easily.
Schools provide regular professional development opportunities for teachers and other school staff. Professional development covers a wide range of areas including various disability topics.
You can also play a role in helping with professional development for school staff by letting them know about the strategies that you use at home to help your child learn and develop.
Equipment and building modifications
Government, independent and Catholic schools supply and fund equipment or building modifications – like ramps and toilet facilities – in different ways.
Discuss your child’s needs with your SSG and the school principal. If the school needs building modifications, it’s a good idea to start as soon as possible because they might take a while.
State and territory education and disability contacts
Your state or territory education department can give you more information about school support and funding for your child:
- ACT Department of Education – Disability education
- NSW Department of Education – Disability, learning and support
- NT Government – About special education and disability
- Queensland Department of Education and Training – Every student with disability succeeding
- South Australian Government – Learning plans
- Tasmanian Department of Education – Students with Disability
- Victorian Department of Education – Support for children with special needs
- WA Department of Education – Children with special learning needs.