The majority of students’ additional needs can be met by schools making ‘reasonable adjustments’ to the learning environment and educational programs.
On this page:
- The right adjustments for your child
- Personalised learning and support
- Resources and training for staff
- Support for your child’s other needs at school
The right adjustments for your child
The learning and support needs of students with a disability vary enormously, which is why discussion and planning are so important to meet your child’s particular needs. The main mechanism for this is your child’s Student Support Group (SSG), or its equivalent in the Catholic or independent school systems, the Program Support Group.
Whatever type of school your child attends, these meetings are essential to ensuring that the school understands your child’s needs, plans the right adjustments and strategies to meet them, and identifies the resources required to make these happen.
- The section Education planning for your child describes in detail how school should work with you and your child to understand and tailor their educational program and supports.
“At the moment the year nines are studying the industrial revolution. The class teacher is getting Ruby to find pictures on the internet of machines invented, and then writing a sentence under that.
Personally I think she could be doing more than that, like looking at a timeline of when things are invented, but I’ve learned that it’s better to compromise so that she’s engaged. She is reading and writing, so that’s great. But that’s just an example. That’s really good, and it’s a long way from where we’ve been, but I think it could be a little bit more structured.
She needs to understand why children used to have to work, that that was a long time ago in whatever era, and now its 2013 and now children go to school. But that’s my very high expectations.
Another example is that Ruby was diagnosed about 18 months ago with autism. She was getting anxious at secondary school because it was so big and different. Now they have a room called the resource room, where the kids on the program can hang out and chill out. Now they have a quiet space in there with a couch and cushions. That’s been absolutely brilliant at giving Ruby the space to just go in, chill out, and listen to her music without all the distractions, and noise, and visual stimulation that was overwhelming for her. That’s been great.” – Denise
Personalised learning and support
Teachers can use a range of teaching approaches to meet the needs of the individual students in their classrooms, including those with a disability. These might include, for example, ‘chunking down’ information, providing visual timetables, visual aids or movement breaks, or giving everyday examples or practical exercises to illustrate information or practice new skills.
If your child is in a mainstream school, they might need the curriculum adjusted to suit their learning capacity. Or they might learn the same curriculum as their classmates without a disability, but with adjustments to (for example) teaching approaches, classroom set-up and management, the presentation of learning materials or their communication needs – for example having an Auslan interpreter or using a communication aid.
Often, adjustments to the curriculum, classroom or teaching approaches that help your child – such as a visual timetable or movement breaks – will also benefit their classmates.
Of course, learning and school life extends beyond the classroom; schools are also required to make adjustments to ensure your child can participate in extracurricular activities such as sports, drama, excursions and camps. If an activity cannot be adjusted to be accessible for your child, school must provide them with an alternative activity of equal educational value, in the context of the broader school program.
- For more on how schools are required to support your child’s participation at school, see the section on Education and your child’s rights.
Resources and training for staff
Catering to the needs of diverse learners can be a big challenge for teachers and other staff. Schools have provision in their budgets for professional development, to help build staff skills. For example, staff might do training on the learning needs of students with specific disabilities – such as students who are Deaf, or have an Autism Spectrum Disorder, a speech disorder or Down Syndrome – or on using communication aids or other specialist equipment.
The AusVELS curriculum and materials include guidance for teachers about catering to diverse learning needs. Other useful resources include the ABLES online package of assessment tools, curricula, teaching strategies and resources, an online training package to help staff better support students with disabilities.
Specialist DET staff can also help, as can advice from you about how to help your child learn – through discussion at your child’s SSG – and from therapists or other professionals involved with your child.
- Find out more about getting input from therapists and other specialists including specialist DET staff, services and programs.
Support for your child’s other needs at school
Your child might require support for their travel, or to get access to the classroom or other facilities. They might require specialist equipment such as a communication aid or special classroom furniture. Or they might require support to meet personal care needs such as eating or drinking, or for their medical care while at school.
Supplementary funding and resources are available to help your child’s schools to meet these needs.
- Read more about support for travel, medical and personal care and accessibility