Choosing a school for your child is one of the hardest decisions you have to make, and there is just no easy way to do it.
By law every child who is 6 and over is legally obligated to attend school, with most children starting at the age of 5. There are 3 main options for schooling.
Home Schooling – Any child can be home schooled. Many families choose to home school their child for different reasons, including living in a rural area, religion or cultural beliefs, or behavioral issues or the specialist needs of their child. Be aware if you choose this option there are strict state requirements to adhere to, each state or territory will vary. This option requires a lot of commitment from the whole family. Your child may also need opportunities to practice social skills outside of the home.
Specialist schools – Special schools help support students with intellectual disability, students with Autism spectrum disorder, students with mental health issues, students with learning difficulties or behavioral issues or students with physical disabilities . Classes are usually smaller and student teacher ratios higher, there is often a demand and waiting lists to attend special schools. Some special schools offer part time placements where a student will attend one or two days a week and attend mainstream school the other days. All special school usually review the placement of each student annually.
Mainstream – Many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder attend mainstream schools, either public, Catholic or independent. Your child might be eligible for additional support at a mainstream school, like teacher aides, or specialist classes if they meet the criteria used by your state or territory’s education department. Catholic and independent schools are governed by the same State laws as public schools, however Catholic and independent schools may have more or less funding available, it would be advisable to check with each individual school to assess funds and resources available. Also be aware that if your child is eligible for funding, the funds will usually go in to the schools “pool of funds” and is spread across all special need students, this is usually the case in all schools.
When choosing any school ask about what resources there are for your child, and what supports are in place.
- Is there regular staff training on Autism spectrum disorder?
- Are there specialist classes available for your child? eg, Friendship club or homework help.
- Ask to see some examples of how the school do their *individual Learning plans (ILP) . Also ask how often the plans are evaluated and updated.
- Can the school be flexible with your child’s needs? Sometimes your child might find it all too much and need a rest day, is the school OK with this?
- Is the school library open for those children who find loud noises and playgrounds a little scary, or are there structured activities at breaks, are there friendship clubs?
- Are excursions and camps flexible to accommodate your child eg, can they wear head phones or maybe stay at home if it’s too much?
- Ask questions about uniforms. Your child may have sensory issues and that school jumper can be very scratchy, are there alternatives available?
- How do you communicate with teachers, emails, notes? Some schools use apps that you can use to instantly message a teacher. These apps can be effective, especially when relaying an important issue requiring a prompt and discreet response.
- Is there a regular school counselor or psychologist available? These staff members can be a great resource in helping to navigate friendship groups, dealing with school avoidance or even bullying issues.
Don’t be afraid to ask the questions, a good school will welcome them and you will quickly get a feel to how accommodating they are. And word of mouth is GOLD, do you know anyone who can recommend a school in your area? And remember trust yourself, if a school just doesn’t feel right then keep looking!
* ILP or individual learning plans is a collaboratively written document which outlines a student’s current level of ability and identifies specific goals for the future. ILP’s are usually written by a teacher or a support staff member during an ILP meeting. This is usually attended by parents, carers, therapists, teachers and anyone else involved in the student’s life. It can be attended by as little or as many support members as you wish. The student should most definitely be involved.