The Victorian government provides a range of specialist staff, services and programs to work with schools and students.
On this page:
- Specialist staff
- Language Support Program
- Assessment services
- For students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
DET school networks employ Student Support Services Officers (SSSOs) to work with students and schools in each region. These specialists work to build schools’ capacity to meet the needs of all students, including those with disabilities. They can help schools plan and develop learning plans and appropriate supports for all students with additional needs (not only those on the Program for Students with Disabilities).
The SSSO workforce includes psychologists, social workers and speech pathologists. Each DET region also has a Visiting Teacher Service, including staff with expertise in specific disabilities, such as hearing loss, physical and health disabilities and visual impairment. SSSO services are in high demand, so the principal should refer your child to them as soon as the need is identified.
DET also employs autism teacher coaches, who can advise teachers and school leaders on adjusting the school environment and teaching approaches to meet the needs of students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD); see below for more programs to support the needs of students with an ASD.
Regional DET offices also employ Koorie Education Support Officers (KESOs), who can support students and families (for example giving advice supporting them at meetings with the school) and can give advice and support to school staff on supporting students and families in culturally safe and appropriate ways.
- Much more information can be found in Rock Solid, our resource for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families about supporting the learning journeys of their children with special needs.
Students who are struggling at school can also be assisted through re-engagement programs, or through partnerships between their school and community agencies through the School Focussed Youth Service Program. For more information, talk to your school’s welfare coordinator or contact the regional DET office.
“Flynn’s needs are quite diverse. Academically he can’t access the curriculum as it stands. Socially he needs help. He gets sensory overload very easily. He needs a lot of routine and structure to his day. And so that’s made it quite challenging for a teacher.
I now go and pick up Flynn at 10 past 3 every day, rather than half past three, so we have 20 minutes of getting him calm every day, before we get the girls and go in the car. And he’s allowed to just de-stress. And he holds my hand for the first time ever. It’s a highlight of my day now. He holds my hand as we walk around the school, and he chats away to me, and it’s just him and I.
That was a strategy that the regional autism consultant put in, and it’s made a world of difference. Because I just wanted to drive into a tree on the way home from school, because he had had no down time, to adjust.
I also let him go into the classroom 15 minutes early, and he goes and sits in his same spot. So he’s not walking in or out with the congestion. He’s in there early. He doesn’t annoy the teachers, he just sits on his iPad. And at assembly time the respite lady comes and sits with him. For something so simple, it’s made a world of difference.
Also, the education department has what’s called a curriculum toolkit, which talks about modifying the curriculum to meet the child’s needs. And so I researched that, so I felt that I was empowered to be confident to know what I was talking about.” Mel
Language Support Program
The Language Support Program is a support and professional learning program that helps teachers and other school staff work with students who need additional support to learn oral language. It includes a self-guided online professional learning package that helps teachers build the skills to:
- identify students with language difficulties
- plan the student’s curriculum and work with their Student Support Group
- learn effective teaching strategies in primary and secondary classrooms, and
- build a whole-school approach to supporting students with language disorders or difficulties.
The online package includes specific information about working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students with language difficulties, and those for whom English is a second language.
If your child’s school is putting in an application for the Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD), their application requires support reports from DET Student Support Services Officers, early childhood intervention practitioners or other professionals such as therapists or paediatricians.
Your child might also be required to undergo further assessment. If the application is under the categories of Intellectual Disability and/or ‘Severe Language Disorder with Critical Educational Needs’, this should be done by DET’s assessment service – there is no cost to schools or parents and carers.
- Read more about the application process for the PSD.
- For more about the assessment service, search on the DET website.
For students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
The Victorian government has a range of programs and services available to help mainstream schools meet the very diverse learning and support needs of students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This includes autism teacher coaches (see above). A number of schools have developed ‘Inclusion Support Programs’, which aim to make their environment and practices more ‘autism friendly’. This program includes Inclusion Support Coordinators – specialist teachers with expertise in ASD – who give training and advice to staff, and provide specialist input into the Individual Learning Plans of students with an ASD. Students can also receive more intensive support as required.
It is worth asking any mainstream school you are considering whether they have undertaken these kinds of activities and training, in order to become more ‘autism friendly’.
- For more information on approaches to supporting students with an ASD in government schools, including resources for schools and parents or carers, visit the DET website and search on ‘autism friendly learning’.
- The Amaze and Positive Partnerships websites are excellent sources of information, training, support and resources for students, families and schools, about the diverse needs of children and young people with ASD.