By Jane Salmon
Piling on against Hanson is hard to resist. She’s under-educated and holds the entire nation back.
There is not a vulnerable or minority group she hasn’t tried to isolate or turn the white middle Australian bogan pack on. This is more of the same.
However, disability parents owe her thanks for this high profile discussion.
Our family has operated on the knife edge of this debate for at least 13 years.
My kids have been excluded and included along public/private funding lines and along resource lines from playgroup to preschool to primary and high schools.
The needs of the specific child are usually overlooked. Stereotyping occurs.
Each child is different. Some have more to gain from autism specific settings. Others need the challenges of the mainstream with extra teacher supports.
My kids have varying degrees of ASD. Like their father and paternal uncles and cousins. (this wasn’t known at the outset). My genes contributed the learning challenges like dyslexia and moodiness. It’s quite a package.
Upon diagnosis, we got told to collect our massive cash deposit from the local WASP school (that had already accepted them) and bugger off. They could not access federal funding for intellectual disabilities we were told. I went into shock.
Should we pretend to be Catholic? I found that the reputation of Catholic educators was too mixed to take that risk.
Then we got told to mainstream at a local school with few trained aides or teachers trained in behavioural and additional learning support.
We fought for segregation in a public system support class 4 suburbs away. This expensive but rather bland option was wonderful, a cocoon. We were all on the same page. Parents paid for music therapy as an extra. We were a cohort and a unified lobby. (We were also a threat to the department).
Then after 2 years, the NSW Dept Education demanded we switch back to mainstream. The kids had potential. They must go to special school (with their videos, pottery and colouring in) or mix it with neurotypicals. Nothing in between was available.
So it was back to the local primary school where we drowned. For about 4 years.
Some teachers were superb. Basically, the kids survived on good will. Others were unimaginative, rigid and lazy. A large proportion of parents were stand offish or resentful. No birthday parties for us.
Fortunately the enlightened souls mucked in. When I got Stage 3 cancer and people treated us with kindness. Breast cancer is easier to connect with than autism.
The education system continued to rearrange itself. Funding models & policies were altered. Aides disappeared as undertrained behaviour support specialists came in. Spot funding for trendy courses and apps came and went.
The P&C paid for remedial classes. We raffled up a bloody storm. When Mum died, I donated $20k. Cheaper than private school, right?
Now we are in a big high school and back on the knife edge. Should B2 retreat to a behaviour school (public or private)? Can he grow into a school with 1600 kids? Will external therapies be enough?
Teaching the system to look at the child not the label is important. Each has a unique set of strengths and capacities.
B1 is thriving. He has a strong work ethic and strong interests. Teaching careers advisors to look at the real person is a current challenge. Some keep holding him back.we mop up any bullying as it occurs.
Can B2 cut it? We’re still not sure. Stay tuned.
To begin with, cosy and small specialist support classes were what we needed. Moving to the mainstream away from this community was overwhelming and ironically isolating. Later, after a lot of teacher resources were soaked up, they began to thrive. They rose to many of the challenges.
We might be on track to create productive little taxpayers.
However the determinant should not be funding. Quality options should be available in quality.
Empathy and respect must be taught in the mainstream. Integration does that.
And each kid is different.
Jane Caro is right. This debate is really about teacher training, teacher supports, flexible options and class sizes.
Bogans like Hanson would have benefitted from the Finnish model of education where teachers explore innovation, hold Masters degrees, command good wages and enjoy respect.
Gonski won’t work unless the full disability education is funded.
Under Gonski 2.0 my local school loses a quarter of a million a year. I pray to God that this funding is diverted away from rich private schools towards inclusive or specialist schools in low SES areas.
Turnbull and the private school lobby are indeed ruining educational progress in this country. Redistribution is necessary.
As usual, we need a more nuanced debate. If kids need special schools or support classes, let them be good. If they need more support in the mainstream, tolerate a few tanties to create the taxpayers of the future. The potential of the entire country is at stake.
We all rise of the same tide: with or without floaties.
As Father Bob says, “Who Cares Wins”.
This article was originally published on Independent Australia as Hanson’s autism remarks miss the point of NDIS, Gonski and so much more.
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