About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006
The Activist
I bet you didn't know that the autism model for students here in Victoria is considered the model for the rest of the world. It's true. I know people who came back from the United States because their options were better here, ditto one couple from New South Wales. In one autism blog I read from the U.S., their child hasn't been able to get a formal diagnosis of autism at the age of seven, even though everything is pointing to that. Our daughter M was just two when she was diagnosed and virtually went straight into an early intervention program that made not just a huge difference to her, but to us as well, kind of a two for one deal.

Being a world leader in autism education is something to be proud of. But like government departments everywhere our particular department in charge of these things thinks there is room for improvement.....by cutting funding, though they may think of it as spreading the funding more fairly. It's just that everyone knows where those funds are coming from, but no-one knows where they are going. Personally I'm not against putting some stress in the system by making people think about how they are spending money, there needs to be accountability, this is public money after all. But we have made an enormous amount of progress in this State in giving those with autism the best possible education they can have and need to be careful that this progress is not endangered by this process of changing funding arrangements.

Autism Victoria has this to say about it:


All indications in the documents provided are that more is to be done with the same bucket of money. The report acknowledges that the number and support needs of the proposed 'Special Needs' group of students are unknown. The best recommendations and models in the world have no value if there is insufficient resourcing allocated to their implementation and ongoing management.
Specialist schools have small enrolments, especially those schools that enrol students with the highest level of need, for example, the four autism specific Special Developmental Schools. There is a real fear that the proposed funding models will effectively reduce the total funds available to these schools, rendering them less viable. Lost will be not only the best learning environment for these most challenging of students, but also the critical mass of specialist, highly skilled teachers who are best placed to provide effective training and consultancy support to other schools.
SPECIALIST CENTRES OF EXCELLENCE MUST BE DEVELOPED FURTHER, NOT STARVED OUT OF EXISTENCE.


The thrust of Better Services Better Outcomes is for Inclusive Education, with the strong implication that this means generic or mainstream school settings as opposed to specialist settings. Our members do not support the move to generic, non specialist schools as the only available schooling option for students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Why do autistic students consistently make good progress in specialist schools? Why do parents choose specialist schools (each of the four autism schools in Melbourne have extensive waiting lists)? Why do so many people with Autism or Asperger Syndrome experience such a totally miserable time at school?
MANY PARENTS, STUDENTS AND AUTISM EXPERTS EXPRESS A PREFERENCE FOR SPECIALIST EDUCATIONAL OPTIONS, NOT GENERIC ONES


The provision of specialist schools and programs does not mean that inclusion cannot be achieved. For students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, the skills necessary to effectively participate in mainstream educational programs are largely absent. Specialist input is essential, on an ongoing basis, to develop and maintain the communication, socialisation and behaviour skills necessary to participate in mainstream school programs.
SPECIALIST SCHOOLS AND SUPPORT PROGRAMS ENHANCE INCLUSION, THEY DO NOT INHIBIT IT


The model proposed by Better Services Better Outcomes implies 'normalisation', which goes hand in hand with the concept of 'least restrictive environment'. Large, mainstream schools are not the only way of providing a least restrictive environment, especially at secondary level. For a number of students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, the least restrictive environment will be the small specialist school with highly skilled staff and specially designed learning programs.
SQUARE PEGS DO NOT FIT INTO ROUND HOLES


The recommendations do not indicate any level of understanding of the needs and rights of students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Large generic school environments discriminate against students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. The essential elements of a school environment - such as the diversity of opportunities, the encouragement of independence, initiative and success and the complex social structures, are all extremely intimidating to the student with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and actively prevent them from accessing a meaningful and fulfilling educational program.
AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER STUDENTS HAVE THE RIGHT TO A SPECIALIST ENVIRONMENT IF THIS BEST MEETS THEIR NEEDS.

I'm not really a political animal, but with the State election coming up, if you don't have a fixed idea of who to vote for and wanted to help someone you know whose child or children has autism, you could do worse than vote for the Labour party.


 
  posted at 3:17 pm
  3 comments



3 Comments:
At 5:46 pm, Anonymous Tanna said...

Square pegs and round holes seems to fit so many situations. And I think it's the best to who you want to vote for and who you want to help. If that makes you political then fine and dandy.

 
At 8:17 pm, Anonymous Gregory said...

Neil, so Bracksie has your vote huh? On the education policy the Labor party has decidedly the less prejudiced approach, I see the Libs have been touting a 'Steiner type' approach in the mainstream schools. The difficulty with this approach I saw in my teaching experience in the primary schools. Specialists would be brought in to help 'special needs' students, but in the end they could only implement a minimal approach method and so had minimal outcomes. This also stretched the 'specialist' budget and was viewed as an 'uncomfortable necessity' by the schools. The Labor party in Vic. has for about 30 years had a policy of enhancing alternate education and the Libs recently have tried to 'normalise' even the values that are taught in the schools. Which one will i vote for, well der...

 
At 10:38 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi tanna, square pegs in round holes sums up so many things. Fine and dandy it will be.

Hi greg, wouldn't it be a great world where it wouldn't matter who was in power, that education for all was the guiding principle, no matter what your needs were.

 

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