Choosing a school for a child with a disability takes careful planning. The school you choose should offer disability support programs that suit your child’s needs. Some specialist schools may only enrol children with a specific disability.
Starting school is an important step for all children. If your child has a disability, there are extra things for you to think about to prepare for that step. Planning will help to smooth out the process.
You will need to consider which school best suits your child – this will partly be determined by the sort of disability support your child needs.
Moving from kindergarten to school
Starting school is an exciting time, but it is a big step for many children. For children with a disability or additional needs there are extra things you might need to consider when preparing for the move.
All children moving from kindergarten to school will have a Learning and Development Statement, which is prepared by your child’s kindergarten teacher in consultation with you. This statement gives you the opportunity to provide the school with information about your child’s abilities, strengths and needs. If you like, you can also give information about any disability support services involved with your child.
You will attend at least two support group meetings to help you and your child transition to school. The first, held in Term 3 or 4 while your child is still at kindergarten, will be organised by your child’s kindergarten teacher and can be held at the kindergarten, school or another location of your choice.
The purpose of the meeting is to develop a plan to support your child’s move from kindergarten to school. The plan will identify an early childhood worker who will help you plan and compile any reports that you would like to pass on to the school. Your contact person at the school will also be identified at this meeting and this person could attend future meetings.
The first meeting will also explore if your child is eligible for the Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD) at school, which is a Victorian Government program that provides government schools with extra funding to meet the additional needs of students with disabilities. If your child is enrolling in a non-government school they will explore whether your child is eligible for extra funding from the Commonwealth government.
The second support group meeting will be in Term 1 of your child’s first year at school.
Assessing your school choices
School is compulsory once children are six-years-old and all children have a right to enrol in their local government primary school. You might, however, want to explore other options for your child including:
- specialist school – there is a range of specialist schools located across the state
- Catholic primary school – the Australian Government provides funding that is distributed through the Catholic Education Office to support schools to include children with disabilities
- an independent school where students with disabilities are actively supported.
How to decide on a school
Children can begin school at the start of the year if they are five years of age by 30 April of that year. It is best to start planning which school your child will attend 12 to 18 months before your child is due to start. To help decide which school will best suit your child you can:
- make an appointment with the school principal to discuss what the school can offer your child
- attend school open days
- speak to parents whose children have started school
- talk to people who know your child, such as their kindergarten teacher or early childhood intervention worker.
Questions to ask the school
Some questions you could ask at the school are:
- What is the size of the school?
- What are the number and size of prep classes?
- Does the school have any previous experience with children with disabilities?
- Will my child physically have access to all school facilities?
- What disability support programs are available for my child?
As well as a specific education program, the school may need to source:
- an integration teacher or teacher aide who will help the classroom teacher
- special equipment or modifications so that your child can access all areas of the school
- therapy such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy or speech pathology support for your child.
Helping your child prepare for school
You can help your child to prepare for school by:
- visiting the school with your child
- asking your child’s kindergarten teacher or early childhood intervention worker to contact the school to talk about their abilities and needs
- asking people who have been working with your child to write a report about your child’s development and skills
- talking to your child about school.
Things to tell your child’s school
Before your child starts school it is a good idea to organise a special meeting with their teacher and principal to discuss ways to make the experience more beneficial for all involved. You might want to tell them about:
- your child’s strengths as well as challenges (including skills they are working on)
- your goals for your child
- your child’s preferred way of learning new things
- types of support they might need (for example, assistance to hold objects or supervision in the playground)
- what to do in an emergency (for example, if your child is having a seizure)
- ways to help settle your child if they are agitated or upset
- how to help your child be as independent as possible (for example, at lunchtime)
- what equipment or aids are helpful
- ways to help engage your child (such as using picture exchange cards)
- behaviour management ideas that work at home (for example, types of praise and rewards)
- potential modifications required within the school environment.
You might also want to share any reports regarding your child’s medical background and early intervention history.
Where to get help
- Your child’s kindergarten teacher
- Department of Education and Training
- Catholic Education Office
- Association of Independent Schools
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
Department of Education and Early Childhood Development
Page content currently being reviewed.
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