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Ask RiotACT: Schools with strong inclusion/disability experience

By clairee - 23 August 2016 14

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Hi all,

We are considering a move from Sydney to ACT, looking at living on a farm south of Queanbeyan. My main concern are the availability of services and school options for my little man (almost 4) who has a physical disability and requires speech and language therapy (plus OT, Physio etc). Can anyone advise on good schools in the area that have a good inclusion approach, have experience working with disability and difference and that have a general focus on social justice/ equity (and just to dream a bit more) environmental sustainability?

TIA

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14 Responses to
Ask RiotACT: Schools with strong inclusion/disability experience
clairee 3:07 pm 08 Sep 16

Thanks for this dragonlord, sounds like a pretty bad experience you had. Good points about the NDIS. We still have 1-2 years before we need school, so we have time to work through the system. Although I have to admit I am leaning more and more towards living in the ACT, at least initially.

dragonlord said :

I am a NSW parent with a child in ACT school that I had to FIGHT (and I mean FIGHT to the point I won’t take her out of the ACT school system – say for a long holiday – in case I can’t get her back in) to get her in. Do not underestimate the difficulty getting your child into the ACT system if you live across the border. I suggest you contact the ACT Education Department (the Disability Education section) to see if you even have a remote chance – they used to have 1-2 spots set aside for ‘regional’ children but that might have changed. The main school in Qbn for kids with additional needs is Queanbeyan Public and honestly they do have a good reputation, however, don’t expect therapy to be provided by school. They simply don’t have the funds. You will still have to cover your own OT, speech etc.

dragonlord 8:02 am 05 Sep 16

I am a NSW parent with a child in ACT school that I had to FIGHT (and I mean FIGHT to the point I won’t take her out of the ACT school system – say for a long holiday – in case I can’t get her back in) to get her in. Do not underestimate the difficulty getting your child into the ACT system if you live across the border. I suggest you contact the ACT Education Department (the Disability Education section) to see if you even have a remote chance – they used to have 1-2 spots set aside for ‘regional’ children but that might have changed. The main school in Qbn for kids with additional needs is Queanbeyan Public and honestly they do have a good reputation, however, don’t expect therapy to be provided by school. They simply don’t have the funds. You will still have to cover your own OT, speech etc. You will have to go through various asssessments (in ACT it is called SCAN – horrible process!) for the school to obtain suitable funding. If you are looking to get him into school next year you may have left it a bit late, especially for the schools to get funding. You will also have the problem of NDIS if you live across the border and put him in an ACT school – this is already running in ACT, and is just rolling out in the Qbn area for people already on the ‘radar’. The special schools in the ACT are starting to put on speechies, OTs etc through the NDIS system but you would still need to do your own stuff.

greenbamboo 9:58 am 31 Aug 16

ACT would have more than NSW as they government schools are quite good to accommodate special needs kids. Best advice would be to join your nearest disability support group in your local area and consult them. Everyone will of course have their own personal experiences, but at least you will get something catered to what you actually need. Good luck!

rommeldog56 11:15 am 26 Aug 16

clairee said :

An hour round trip, with two stops southmouth! Sounds a little painful. But thanks for the info

Also, there is a scheme (through ACTION bus service I think) whereby if u live in the ACT, disabled students are picked up at their house and transported by small bus (with wheelchair lift if needed) to their school and back home. There are legibility requirements. Link is here :

http://www.education.act.gov.au/school_education/disability_education/transport_for_students_with_disabilities

clairee 9:22 am 26 Aug 16

Such a great source of info rommeldog56, thank you!

I will write to the education minister – can you believe I never even thought of that!

My son has a fairly rare condition but is sometimes grouped under the cerebral palsy category so I will talk to Cerebral palsy alliance and other like services and see what they suggest. We currently have a private speech therapist and also work with a non-profit service to provide speech therapy support in child care. We also have a key worker that provides OT and physio and we have other professionals on the case as well. I can imagine it is always hard moving and re-finding services but I feel pretty positive about the move to ACT.

Its great to hear that both your kids had a good education experience and are now doing so well. I can imagine you are over the moon.
Thanks again.

clairee 9:15 am 26 Aug 16

An hour round trip, with two stops southmouth! Sounds a little painful. But thanks for the info

clairee 9:13 am 26 Aug 16

Great thanks wildturkeycanoe

wildturkeycanoe said :

I’m not sure where you are planning on living but we know a family living in Royalla [N.S.W side of the southern border] who has a child in Woden School, which caters for Canberra kids with disabilities from yr 7 to 12. So it may be possible to access care for your little one in other A.C.T schools even though you are outside the enrolment area. Just ring up some places first to see what is available.

Southmouth 10:48 am 25 Aug 16

There is a whole bus network devoted to ferrying children from the greater Queanbeyan hobby farm areas and beyond to ACT schools. I’d suggest more would be in ACT schools than NSW schools. The thing to be aware of though is it is a two hop trip unless you can drop your child at the Royalla or Queanbeyan interchanges. Two hops can easily take over an hour. That said, the ACT buses can take just as long to go 5 suburbs over and are expensive while the NSW buses are free.

rommeldog56 8:19 am 25 Aug 16

clairee said :

Thanks for the advice rommeldog 56. I think we are after public primary schools in the ACT – and we’re open to a range of locations (we might even give up the country dream for a few years) to get started in the right location and school. What is the best way to get in touch with resident’s groups (facebook?). I’ve started talking to service providers so I’ll add in a question re:schools. Thank you.

rommeldog56 said :

Dunno about NSW (which is presumably where your sons schooling will be ?), but here in the ACt its hit and miss – from my experience with getting 2 children (one physical disability and one high functioning autism). Generally, I found that the ACT Govt school system (despite the abhorrent “boy in a cage” incident) reasonably accommodating for special needs.

Not so in the ACT non Government schools though – no doubt due in part to more limited resources.

Suggest you try contacting local residents groups and/or disability support services in the region you are moving to, for leads.

Best of luck with your search !

To work out which public ACT schools would suit your needs and so perhaps where to live – and your sons physical needs too – may be a chicken and egg thing. ACT schools have catchment areas but you can lobby to go out of zone. Suggest you write to the ACT Education Minister to seek views on which school in their system might best suit your sons needs re like students, special needs resourcing and things like being on one level or having a lift.

Personally, I have had experience (a decade or more ago now though) in the ACT public school system with Monash Primary School, Caroline Chisholm High School, Lake Tuggeranong College and Erindale College. For my kids special needs/flexible education options, I can not recommend them highly enough.

As an aside, Erindale College took my child who hadnt been to School for a few years (high functioning Autism) and designed such a great, flexible educational program for him, that he is now in his final year at University with almost straight Distinction and High Distinction marks. They were fantastic – but so was my child for overcoming those issues and having a go. Again, Lake Tuggeranong College made arrangements for my mobility challenged child to have most classes on the ground level – despite having a lift. Also, brilliant and accommodating for our special needs.

Re OT and Speach Therapy – again, very dated experience. But the Gov’t services were patchy back then. It was not uncommon to only have the same OP/Speach Therapist for only 2 or so visits and they either left or were moved onto other cases. I thought that consistency of treatment was very important, so went private (which was quite expensive – but good).

Try this link, these people may have some views or can advocate if necessary – also has a heading for “Therapy : http://www.communityservices.act.gov.au/disability_act .

Or else, try support services/org’s for your sons disability (if there are any here) or general ACT disability support services organisations.

Good luck.

wildturkeycanoe 6:23 am 25 Aug 16

I’m not sure where you are planning on living but we know a family living in Royalla [N.S.W side of the southern border] who has a child in Woden School, which caters for Canberra kids with disabilities from yr 7 to 12. So it may be possible to access care for your little one in other A.C.T schools even though you are outside the enrolment area. Just ring up some places first to see what is available.

clairee 9:51 pm 24 Aug 16

Thanks for the advice rommeldog 56. I think we are after public primary schools in the ACT – and we’re open to a range of locations (we might even give up the country dream for a few years) to get started in the right location and school. What is the best way to get in touch with resident’s groups (facebook?). I’ve started talking to service providers so I’ll add in a question re:schools. Thank you.

rommeldog56 said :

Dunno about NSW (which is presumably where your sons schooling will be ?), but here in the ACt its hit and miss – from my experience with getting 2 children (one physical disability and one high functioning autism). Generally, I found that the ACT Govt school system (despite the abhorrent “boy in a cage” incident) reasonably accommodating for special needs.

Not so in the ACT non Government schools though – no doubt due in part to more limited resources.

Suggest you try contacting local residents groups and/or disability support services in the region you are moving to, for leads.

Best of luck with your search !

clairee 9:48 pm 24 Aug 16

Thanks TracyS. My preference at this stage is a mainstream school with a good inclusion approach – unless the special school is focused on speech and language. Good point about ACT/NSW services. We’d consider a more suburban lifestyle (i.e. move north of Queanbeyan) if that meant better schools.

rommeldog56 11:48 am 23 Aug 16

Dunno about NSW (which is presumably where your sons schooling will be ?), but here in the ACt its hit and miss – from my experience with getting 2 children (one physical disability and one high functioning autism). Generally, I found that the ACT Govt school system (despite the abhorrent “boy in a cage” incident) reasonably accommodating for special needs.

Not so in the ACT non Government schools though – no doubt due in part to more limited resources.

Suggest you try contacting local residents groups and/or disability support services in the region you are moving to, for leads. Best of luck with your search !

TracyS 11:32 am 23 Aug 16

Malkara school in the ACT is a specialist Preschool and Primary School for children with disabilities, but I think the child has to be resident in ACT. If you are living near Queanbeyan, you may need to access NSW based services.

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