How to Ensure Your Student’s Special Needs are Being Met
Educational options for special needs students in Australia range from separate schools through to inclusive classes where students spend all their time in mainstream groups.
Inclusive classrooms are considered best practice for the range of benefits they provide for all students, but the drawbacks include larger classes and less individual attention.
Many mainstream teachers feel they lack the training and resources to deal with special needs students. As a result, these students may not receive the individual support and attention they require.
These questions can help you judge whether your child’s needs are being met:
Are teachers in regular contact?
It’s important for parents and teachers to share information about behaviour issues, individual requirements and progress for special needs students. It’s a good sign when your child’s teachers provide regular feedback about how your child is proceeding and are open to your feedback and suggestions.
One way to determine how seriously your student’s needs are treated is through their IEP (Individual Education Plan). Were you consulted during its development? Did real thought and effort go into the IEP, or is it treated as a ‘tick and flick’ exercise? Are learning activities differentiated to meet your child’s needs, based on the IEP?
Is the school supportive?
The overall school culture plays a big role in your child’s education. You can gauge the level of commitment to meeting special needs through the additional supports provided. Are there enough teacher’s aides in the classrooms? Does the school provide regular access to services such as speech pathology and psychologists? Are you informed about your student’s entitlements and funding arrangements?
Does the school have high expectations for special needs students and encourage them to participate in all activities? Do they allow flexibility, such as providing a time-out area, for those who need a break from mainstream classes? Is bullying treated seriously and immediately dealt with?
Is your child happy?
Your child’s happiness at school reveals a lot about the quality of education they are receiving. If they attend school without complaining and are generally motivated and content, it’s a good indication they are coping with the work and feel comfortable at school.
When your child’s needs are being met you should notice positive changes in terms of their confidence, independence, organisational and social skills. If your student has regressed and become withdrawn, anxious or angry, they may be struggling in class and feel unsupported at school.
If you’re dissatisfied with the education your special needs student is receiving, it may not be necessary to change schools.
Try these steps first:
- Seek expert advice. Speak to special needs coordinators, school psychologists, teacher’s aides and the principal for advice on how best to meet your child’s needs.
- Tweak existing arrangements. If you child is in a mainstream classroom, they may benefit from some time in a special needs group, or with an aide for one-on-one attention.
- Hire a tutor. Some individual attention and support outside the classroom may be of great benefit to your student.
- Become an advocate. Knowing your child’s rights and entitlements allows you to advocate on their behalf.