What parents of special needs children can do to make sure their children are supported at school

Mar 24, 2015 at 3:23 a.m. ET

The Australian Education Union has released a report on the state of schools across the country, with damning results in the areas of care and support for disabled students.

The results from a landmark State of Our Schools report reveal that four out of every five principals feel they don't have the necessary support and resources to assist their students with disabilities.

The report went on to estimate that an enormous amount — 100,000 disabled students — are going to schools that do not receive any additional funding to assist them with the care and support of students with disabilities.

A further 84 per cent of principals say they are forced to shuffle their funding around and relocate other funding to be able to help children with disabilities.

So what does that mean for parents? How can they be sure that their child is going to get the best possible care at their school of choice?

The New South Wales Parents' Council suggests thinking ahead and getting the ball rolling on your school choice at least a year before you expect them to be enrolled.

Children with special needs also have the right to attend their local public school, so if you prefer that your child be enrolled in your local area at your public school of choice, then that is also available to you.

Special needs requirements from the education system differ, so the New South Wales Parents' Council also suggests talking to your child care director to discuss what learning development option would be suitable for your child as they move to Grade 1.

If you have a particular school in mind, but aren't sure of the level of support that will be offered, here are some ways to make sure they get the right amount and type of developmental support:

  • Attend an open day at the school and ask questions of the staff and inspect the facilities.
  • Is full inclusion in a public school your preferred option? Look at the options available and see which best suits you and your child.
  • Chat to the principal to get an idea of the school culture and priorities.
  • During visits to the school, look for signs of inclusion and genuine interest in you and your child.
  • Check to see if the school has a written policy about children with disabilities.
  • Ask how many children with disabilities are currently enrolled at the school and speak to their parents about their own experiences.
  • Is there a learning support office that is responsible for children with disabilities and learning difficulties?
  • Do teachers receive specific training related to working with children with disabilities?
  • Is there equipment to assist with access around the school?
  • Talk about your child's needs to the principal or teaching staff and let them know about any barriers or challenges your child might face.
  • Know that you are an expert when it comes to your child.

Do you have a child with learning difficulties or a disability who is enrolled in a public school? What advice would you give parents? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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