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Pauline says segregate, I say integrate. Who would you trust?

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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  1. townsvilleblog

    It would depend on the level of autism, my daughter’s education was ruined by an autistic child who constantly disrupted her class, throwing chairs and desks around the class room. That was bad enough but when he threatened her life by telling her he would burn our house down with her in it she completely freaked out, this caused her to drop out of school in Grade 8 with mental health issues it was a terrible time for our little family. The boy concerned has graduated in his behaviour since then and was a feature in our local newspaper recently when he attacked his ‘friend’ with a sword, we were told that nothing could be done for my daughter at school because ‘he’ was a ‘special needs’ student. I am not aware of how many other children in his class were affected by his behaviour, but my personal opinion is that autistic students need a lot of supervision that is not available in ordinary classes and perhaps Senator Hanson is correct on this matter, no matter how unpalatable it is for me to agree with her, having lived through this experience.

  2. Kaye Lee

    Pauline, in her crass way, has made this a discussion about autism when it should be a discussion about how we cater for the needs of individual students and how we better educate and support teachers.

    She makes inane statements like “It is no good saying that we have to allow these kids to feel good about themselves and that we do not want to upset them and make them feel hurt.” Does she not understand that a feeling of self-worth has enormous implications both on behavioural and academic outcomes?

    There is a growing body of evidence that better results are achieved when children, rather than sitting for endless standardised tests, are encouraged to aim for improvement by individual programs with real time feedback. It isn’t about discipline and control, it is about encouragement and equipping individuals with the skills they need to be productive members of society. It is about co-operation, not subjugation or segregation.

  3. sandrasearle

    It all rests on the degree within the ASD spectrum the child lays. Some kids do well in mainstream education with specialist teaching. It does depend on the severity of ASD.
    Freethinker, you have hit the nail on the head, thanks for the link.

  4. Terry2

    Hanson gets up in the parliament periodically and waffles. Rarely has she thought through or prepared what she is saying and nearly always she leaves the senate Chamber as soon as she has made her contribution.

    Usually she is an utter embarrassment and most Senators cringe.

    For those who are thinking of supporting One Nation I suggest that you just tune into her next oration; I’m sure that will put you straight.

  5. jimhaz

    I know practically nothing about the issue – but I do see Hanson’s point.

    With social trends like integration we can tend to take things too far and I wonder if this has been the case with autism of the kind that is disruptive to others.

    As I don’t know, it seems a fair question to raise. I wonder if negatively affected parents or even teachers have approached Hanson – or if she is just seeking attention by appealling to her base constituency and/or reptilian ways like Trump constantly does.

    She is willing to paint all muslims as negative influences ignoring the semi-moderate Aust mainstream muslim and she is probably doing the same thing here – only a small percentage of integrated kids harm the education of other class members and the rest do not.

  6. helvityni

    These days Australia is already a very divided country:

    Aussies/ Immigrants
    Private (anything) / Public
    Black / white
    The bullies / the bullied
    Coalition / Labor
    Lifters /leaners
    Pensioners/ self-funded retirees
    People with jobs/ unemployed ( in Oz lingo, bludgers)
    Boys schools / all girl schools

    I say let’s integrate, no more driving kids in need to classrooms of their own, segregated from others… As you say better teachers, extra trained staff to help when necessary, and smaller class numbers.

    My daughter’s friend told me once: “I’m in them dumb classes.” What a hell are they?

    PS. Jane Caro was not given much time on Drum a couple days ago, yet she has a lot to offer, and is passionately interested in education.
    Who is the ABC afraid of upsetting?

  7. paulwalter

    They should segregate Hanson.

  8. Keitha Granville

    spot on paulwalter.

    The whole issue should needs based funding and needs based teaching. Smaller class sizes, aides for children with special needs, and dump the standardised tests. The Finnish model shows how education needs to be approached holistically. Training them to pass a test like a set of lab rats is not education.

    Children need to grow up together – all sizes,types,colours,religions, and abilities. How can we expect them to live in the world if they haven’t grown up with the world in their classrooms.

  9. Roswell

    Great story, Jane. I do enjoy these articles from The AIMN’s readers about their experiences. In this particular subject you have much more to offer than the ignorant politician who pretends to be an expert. The meme, btw, is perfect.

  10. helvityni

    paulwalter, my award “The Top Post of the Day” goes to you….

  11. Kyran

    Whilst hanson’s current utterances seem to have focussed community attention on ASD, it is regrettable the media continue to be enthralled with the appalling.
    As a case in point, ‘PM’ (ABC radio) last night had a report on the matter, concentrating on the politics in play. Buried in the report was reference to a report tabled in the Victorian Parliament yesterday.
    The government announced its ‘Inquiry into services for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder’ last year and have been consulting widely.


    Many of the issues raised in your articles are dealt with, including the relationship between Gonski and NDIS, suitably training and equipping all of those involved in the delivery of the necessary services and comprehensive coordination of all of the services for the individuals effected.
    The final report is detailed and lengthy. In the off chance you haven’t heard of it, the link is provided.

    PDF format
    Word format

    As an aside, my younger son is anaphylactic. Some fifteen years ago, trying to enrol him in kinder was a nightmare, with several kinders refusing admission outright. Those who would consider admission required an ‘action plan’ and various liability waivers. This was at a time when the condition was known to effect more than 5% of children.
    It is now more prevalent and schools address it as a matter of routine.

    You certainly have had more than your fair share of hardship, for which I can only wish you (and your family) well. It is terribly sad that these health issues arise. It is terribly sad that it takes time to address them. It is outright disgusting that politicians are, time and time again, the impediments to reasoned assessment and response.
    Thank you Ms Salmon and commenters. Take care

  12. Zathras

    Not all disruptive school children are autistic and not all autistic children are disruptive.

    Generalisation the only thing Hanson knows how to do, whether it’s Asians, Muslims, aborigines, immigrants or autistic children – they are all the same to her and should be segregated or otherwise kept apart from the “normal” people like her.

    No shades of grey – everything’s either black or white in her bitter and twisted sense of reality.

  13. king1394

    I haven’t noticed much about the benefits of mixing with children with disabilities for mainstream children. A couple of my children were fortunate to attend a mainstream High School as neuro-typical children in the late 90s early 00s when in NSW a commitment was made to truly support the students with disabilities. In our high school were plenty of autistic and/or low IQ and/or physically disabled (deaf, blind) children, as well as some of those severe but invisible disabilities stemming from long term hospital stays related to cancer treatment and a couple of children with PTSD. I believe that my children benefited from being schooled beside students with disabilities and learned a lot about appreciating the rights of all people to access opportunities to reach their full potential. They also learned that a lot of children with disabilities are also very able in some areas.

    Probably the most important lesson those so-called normal children were learning was that a lot can be done by all the people in a community to modify situations to allow everyone to join in and have fun. One of my lasting memories is watching a totally blind youngster playing cricket with the rest of the lads. This was not an organised situation, just playground fun. The young people were happy to enjoy the game together, and if some rules were not working, such as stepping outside the crease, it didn’t worry them

  14. Matters Not

    So schools will receive significant additional monies. Cheers all round. Then comes the evaluation . Followed by the reaction(s) to same.

    While there are any number of evaluative possibilities across the broad social and economic spectrums, I suspect the success or otherwise of Gonski 2.0 will be measured almost exclusively in terms of academic outcomes – as measured, for example, by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Julia Gillard in the light of Gonski set the goal for Australia to be among the top five nations in reading, maths and science by 2025. Certainly an ambitious academic outcome that Shorten also voiced. At the time, it was described by Pyne as: their most outlandish promise of all”, a promise of “all foam and no beer”.

    So what to expect from Gonski 2.0 and all this additional funding. If it’s measured purely via academic attainment(s) in both relative and absolute terms, I suspect the future criticisms, like those in the present and the immediate past, will be best summed up with the ongoing claim it’s all been a great waste of money. And if academic outcomes are the only measure of significance, such views will continue to reign supreme. A great pity.

  15. diannaart

    Top article. As others have noted we do need to discuss and act upon Jane Caro’s point “teacher training, teacher supports, flexible options and class sizes”.

    Gonski mark 2, is not going redress the erosion of security of tenure, pay that actually fits the job, conditions in public schools…and so on.

    Nobody enlighten Pauline that some people are more mentally and emotionally and just plain more intelligent than others… and which category she would be segregated into… which I have not mentioned.

    Have heard Hanson now trying to claim she instigated much needed discussion – that was not her intent, she wanted the ‘useless’, ‘time-consuming’ kids out of the regular classrooms, oh, and give those well-meaning-bleeding-heart type teachers a kick a good kicking.

    For all her many faults, Hanson is the consummate opportunist.

  16. corvus boreus

    I can see the point behind Hansons comment, in terms of ‘special needs integration within mainstream education’ causing some (unacceptable) classroom disruption, but (surprise, surprise!), her approach to a ‘solution’ makes little logical sense.

    Autistic children sometimes disrupt classes.
    This does not mean that all all autistic children are automatically disruptive, nor that all children disrupting classes are autistic.
    Autism Spectrum Disorder is, as suggested by the word ‘spectrum’, a very broad diagnosis, both in degrees of severity and varieties of behavioral manifestation, many/most being non-disruptive.

    Alternatively, there are a number of other medical/psychologically diagnosed conditions that are, by definition, far more predisposed towards manifesting behaviors causing classroom disruption, such as Tourette Syndrome, Oppositional Defiance/Conduct Disorders, and all the various Ritalin treated ‘Attention Deficit Disorders”.

    Rather than suggesting legislation that automatically discriminates against a demographic of children tagged with a very broad and generic medical diagnosis, shouldn’t the issue be whether educational authorities be given greater powers (with proper oversight) to suspend/expel chronically disruptive students from mainstream classes?

  17. corvus boreus

    Ps, not to mention looking to implement/expand alternative educational avenues for those behaviorally deemed ‘beyond the pale’.

  18. Kaye Lee

    “shouldn’t the issue be whether educational authorities be given greater powers (with proper oversight) to suspend/expel chronically disruptive students from mainstream classes?”

    That should be an absolute last resort. What do those suspended/expelled kids do? One year, for sport, I had the ten-pin bowling crowd – a very diverse mix which could possibly have been described as the nerds and the naughty. One of the kids was suspended but he still turned up at sport. After having a chat with him about what I expected, I didn’t have the heart to turn him away. He behaved impeccably. With every child, they knew with me, every day was a fresh start where they had the chance to impress me or disappoint me.

    I do understand that there are some kids we just can’t accommodate in mainstream and some behaviours that cannot be tolerated. But, in my experience, they were very few and far between. So much depends on the relationship with the teacher. The kids always knew my classroom was a “hassle-free zone” where we all must respect each other and woe betide anyone who tried to interfere with that – they would be spending their lunchtime with me having a chat – some kids pleaded for the cane rather than the chat. When you get them on their own, away from an audience where they have to appear tough, they weren’t so daunting.

    Much of the bad behaviour from kids with learning difficulties came from frustration and from teasing. Those so-called normal kids can be cruel at times. That is why integration (with the right supervision) can be so valuable – they learn to help each other. When my kids were at primary school I remember them all forming an impromptu tunnel at the finish line of the cross country to cheer on home some physically disabled kids who arrived a long time after the others – all of we parents were in tears.

  19. Kaye Lee

    I also remember filling in for a geography teacher once (not my subject area so I followed the lesson plan they had set). One boy wasn’t doing the work and he informed me that he was dyslexic and he usually just coloured in maps. I looked in the teacher’s daybook and next to his name it said “unable to assess”. I told him that I expected him to do the same work as the other students and that I would help him if needed. I got him started and then did my usual wander around the room. When I returned to him, he had made no progress so I sat with him and got him started again on the next bit. Came back after 5 mins or so to no more progress so I sat with him again and got another paragraph done. Eventually he said to me “Give up, miss”. My response was “I never give up. If you want to get rid of me, then let’s get this done.” Sure enough, by the end of the lesson, he had finished the task.

  20. 2353

    Yes, some kids on the ASD spectrum are disruptive, just as some kids who have no underlying reason are also disruptive. Teachers I know have an acronym for the latter – they are diagnosed as being NLB/Gs (Naughty little boys/girls).

    My son attends a primary school that has a significant number of ‘special needs’ kids. Where possible, those kids are integrated into mainstream classes. The school is also funded to run special classrooms for those that cannot integrate. It seems that the identification of the individual needs of the students at the school is done well – and if any child has the need for additional assistance it is provided at an appropriate level so that the specific children are given the opportunity to progress to their potential.

    Jane Salmon – I have a lot of sympathy for your position. There is a ridiculous number of diametrically opposed (but made with the best intentions) advice to parents that are dealing with issues such as ASD and learning difficulties. You really don’t need red headed muppets with no idea making it harder for you and everyone else.

    There is also a significant incentive to try whatever is offered, so the accusations of not trying the best for our children are not made. I hope that eventually, you have success with your endeavours and most importantly – enjoy your unique children. They sound like they are truely special (in all the right senses of the word).

  21. Matters Not

    Yes the experiences and solutions provided by the few are all very interesting but when it comes to education policy perhaps there is the need to address some more fundamental questions?

    The belief that Gonski 2.0 will deliver needs based responses is laughable. That selective schools increasingly cater to the most advantaged students is ignored completely. That so called private schools will ignore any notion of social responsibility while accepting significant levels of social funding seems to slip through the intellectual filter.

    On could go on but why bother. Let’s keep tilting at windmills and confine our efforts to supplying the odd Band-Aid or two.

    And above all, let’s not think outside the box.

  22. Matters Not

    Want to have Australian kids achieve at the same academic level as (selected) Asian students? It’s not an insurmountable problem. Indeed it can be achieved within a few years. And it can be done much more efficiently and effectively minus any additional funding – provided we decide on what we want the purpose(s) of schooling to be.

    Here’s a taste:

    The post below, from a Chinese mother explains both why Chinese cities are scoring well on PISA and why paradoxically those who can, have their children educated elsewhere:

    “Since my daughter began 7th grade, she has had extra evening classes. At that time, the class ends at 18:50 and I accepted it. But ever since she entered 9th grade, the evening class has lengthened to 20:40. For the graduating class, the students have to take classes from 7:30 to 20:00 on Saturdays. There are also five weeks of classes during the winter and summer school vacation… After coming home after 10pm, she has to spend at least one hour on her homework. She has to get up at 5am. She is still a child. May I ask how many adults can endure this kind of work?”

    Not a ‘problem’ is it? Raising ‘standards is so very easy.


  23. Matters Not

    Then here’s the argument that the fundamental ‘problem’ (however – not defined) can be solved by individuals simply being smarter and trying even harder and harder. As though ‘structural’ arrangements matter for nought.

    I despair.

  24. Kaye Lee

    Many firms are saying nowadays that the best test scores are not necessarily what they are looking for. They want people who can make others feel comfortable be they their colleagues, their suppliers or their customers. They want people who can communicate well and work as a team. Sure, we need the brainiacs who amaze us with their discoveries but then we need the people with the vision, the drive, the connections, and the trust to make those ideas a reality.

  25. guest

    Pauline Hanson is partly right. How right, in the estimation of parents of autistic children, will depend on the experience they have had with their child’s school experience. At least Hanson has raised the issue. Needs have not always been a central concern. Too often it has been a matter of trying to fit the child to the template and not the other way around.

    So we have had education “pundits” who have asserted that money is not a consideration in Education. Did Socrates not teach in the market place? Class sizes do not matter, they say. Did not the C19th Manchester Lancasterian School teach 1000 students in one great hall, with intense drilling of specific facts with the help of monitors, like some kind of catechism, and evaluated by testing, testing, testing? So also more recently, the demand for a National Curriculum, but not this one or that one. There was talk of top-down-dictatorial command coming out of Canberra.

    Oops! Is that what we have now?

    One wonders what is meant by “integrated”. Does that mean autistic/disabled/ mentally handicapped children are all integrated into main stream classes? Or only into some mainstream classes, but separated into special classes for other subjects?

    Will all teachers be competent to teach these students with special needs? Will some students be accompanied by trained special teachers, as happens, for example, with blind students who can have notes prepared for them in braille? Is there room for volunteer parents to help in the classroom?

    Deciding how the special needs of each child will be met (and funded) is the big test. We have in the past graded children on the basis of “intelligence” tests, or the choice of school, or subjects. We have had academic streams, commercial streams, trades streams (even Technical Schools separate from general High Schools).

    So, in integrating students, do we still separate students out into A, B, C, D….G, H…streams according to ability?

    It amazes me that we have been investigating and implementing various aspects of education for generations and generations with the help of umpteen dozen education institutions and think tanks – and still we are told we are failing. Especially vis a vis Asian schools – and sometimes it is single specific specialist schools. Even Finland has “slipped” from top in PISA testing. What does it mean?

    Is it all about the money. In one place it was found that by adding one student to each class across the domain, 300 salaries could be saved.

    Just how the Coalition will fund their Gonski 2.0 will be very telling. No doubt we will get Gonski 3.0, 4.0 etc in years to come.

    It will be interesting to see where the cuts will be in other areas of the economy. No more subsidies for coal? Not so many fighter bombers? We shall see what we shall see. Will we all be happy?

  26. Terry2

    What is interesting is that the coalition, in a bid to win over the crossbench, agreed to spend an extra $5 billion, on top of the additional $18.6 already announced, while rolling out the funding over six years instead of 10.

    After saying that Labor had never funded Gonski 1.0 the coalition can suddenly find these concessions without so much a by-your leave.

    Turnbull and Birmingham are high-fiving all over the place having adopted a Labor policy and merely cut the funding – in the first instance. What now remains is whether they will honour the six year time-frame.

    As they also conceded to having an independent panel overseeing Gonski 2.0 it will be interesting to see who is on that panel.

  27. guest

    Terry 2,

    yes, lots of deals and agreements. Of course it is compromise revealing leadership and negotiation ability, agility and innovation.

    Yet Gillard was hammered for daring to have 27 agreements to get Gonski 1 off the ground. She was continuously blocked in every direction by we know who.

    It is also interesting to hear that there has not been much negotiation between the Coalition govnt and other players in the education game. Top-down-dictatorship straight out of the Canberra bunker!

  28. helvityni

    Mal loses to Dutton, Abbott has a come-back…what’s this about Gonski 2 ; forgotten, some old Labor policy ???

  29. Terry2

    The so called 27 separate agreements supposedly entered into by the Gillard Labor government have been used as big stick by the coalition but never revealed as to what they were or who they were with and why they were so wrong.

    When you consider at the deals done with the Catholics (12 month transition) and the states (6) and territories (2) you will probably find that the agreements done by the coalition are not much different in number.

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