A continuum of educational options for children with disabilities to reach full potential
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I am a mother of a 7 year old child with Autistic Spectrum Disorder - Level 3. I am also an Occupational Therapist. This is the executive summary of a submission that I have made to the Royal Commission into Violence, Neglect an Exploitation of People with Disability. This is a Public Submission, and should be available in its entirety via the Commission. Hearings on Education are scheduled for the Commission in March 2020. Please sign if you endorse the comments below:
From a philosophical perspective, a fully inclusive quality education for all children with disabilities is a worthy goal; however, examination is warranted of whether rigidity around this perspective enables us to practically achieve this for all children with disabilities to reach their full potential.
The fullest level of inclusion within educational and community settings is desired for children with disabilities, so long as it remains a positive and valuable experience for that individual child.
A continuum of educational settings, service options and support levels are required to meet the needs of all children with disabilities to reach their full potential.
All children with a disability have a human right to be able to access the type and level of service that is required for that child’s fullest development.
Children with disabilities are not a homogenous group where a "one size fits all approach" to education delivery is sustainable or effectively achievable. Children with disabilities are a heterogenous population that require a differentiated sophisticated approach to education delivery.
There should be adequate pathways and flexibility to transition between different types of educational settings as particular children’s’ needs require or as capacity is built.
Many children currently within special education settings are not there because they have been "forced into segregation", but because their parents or advocates have chosen this environment as being the most effective at delivering their child an education that supports and enables them to reach their full potential. These parents and advocates come from a wide range of personal and professional backgrounds, including those highly educated in health and education spheres.
Some children with disabilities may need to remain in highly supported education settings to receive equal opportunity to gain a meaningful education. These settings provide the possibility to:
a) Remain safe: Particularly those children with cognitive and behavioural impairments that may prevent them from being able to understand and process the risk of danger/road safety;
b) Effectively manage challenging behaviour: To maximise the safety of all children and decrease the risk of exclusion of children with disabilities;
c) Receive an effective education: Characterised by equitable access to the curriculum; designed and delivered by expertly trained special education teachers.
Empirical evidence in the education literature has highlighted the need to shift from an idealised perspective of full educational inclusion to provision of a continuum of educational placement options.
If all students with disabilities were to be ‘forced into inclusion’ there will be adverse consequences for a number of these students, which would fundamentally deprive a generation of children with disabilities to reach their full potential.
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