Do you want your child to attend a mainstream school, regardless of their disability?
Are you concerned that they won’t get the support and guidance they need?

It’s that time. You need to find the right school for your pre-schooler with a special needs disability. You really want them to attend a mainstream school, but where do you start? With apprehension… start looking, feeling worried, exciting and confused all at once!

Your little one is growing up. Transitioning to the next stage in their childhood life. Thoughts are racing through your mind. Will this school enrol my child? Can the school understand and offer the level of support my little one needs on their learning journey? Will they treat them with respect?

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You hear opinions from well-meaning people, early learning educators, therapists, family members and friends.  It’s so overwhelming, yet you know you’re determined to get what your child deserves. To be equal….

Your child has a right to inclusion in education.

A recent National Education Survey of families of children with a disability found 40% of students with a disability had been excluded from events or activities in the last year. With 12.5% of students being refused enrolment, and nearly half reporting bullying.

Special education teachers say despite some students having “complex needs”, there is no reason they cannot attend and thrive in mainstream schools.

Forms of exclusion can include:

  • Exclusion from sports,
  • Refusal to make adjustments to the environment restricting your child’s participation,
  • Only allowing your child to attend part of the day,
  • Your child is sent home when any difficulties arise.

You may feel conflicted as you know your child best, and you want people to have the same expectations of your child as they do of other children.  You also know that your child will need some additional support, flexibility and tasks to be broken into achievable steps for their success.  Some may recommend specialist schools for your child. Others may recommend reduced hours at school, some will directly say they cannot support your child and others give indirect answers, i.e. they don’t know their numbers yet and will get back to you.

Inclusion and the impact on your child

Inclusion in a mainstream school will lead to a sense of belonging, growth in confidence and facilitates social development for both children with and without disability. Your child will learn that they can do what others can do and develop independence and a sense of self worth.

As a parent you want to be informed. Taking a collaborative approach will place you in a better position to be a strong advocate for your child.

So how to you do this?

  • Be prepared. Understand your child’s rights under the Disability Standards for Education.
  • Be assertive. Start by arranging a meeting with the school. Open and regular communication with teachers is useful.
  • Listen to them and respectfully state your child’s needs and the reasonable adjustments required.
  • Educate the school in the meeting (if you need to), e.g. not completing work does not mean laziness, it means difficulty with gross motor planning and sensory processing.
  • Look out for red flags, e.g. forms of exclusion such as a suggestion of reduced hours or participation in activities such as sport
  • Refer to your child’s right to inclusion and explore support available.

As a parent you want to feel that your decision is cemented, and be confident in sending your child to mainstream school. We understand that support along the journey can be helpful, so don’t be hesitant in reaching out to professionals for support. You want the best for your child, so give them the most prepared, confident parent they can have through this process.

Written by Gretchen De Martin - Psychologist

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