Flexible schooling options for children with disability

Flexible schooling options for children with disability

In some situations children with disability may need different schooling schedules to other children.

Key points

  • The learning needs of children with disability might be best supported by flexible school options

  • These options include part time schooling, homeschooling and distance education

  • Schooling is run differently in each State and Territory so it’s important to check what is available where you live

Part time schooling, homeschooling or distance education could be good options for children who struggle to cope with a full school day, or who have chronic health conditions which make it too difficult for them to attend school regularly.

These options can also help children with disability to juggle appointments with support services, such as therapy.

Part time school

Flexible school education schedules are available for children who can still attend school but can’t attend for the same amount of time that other students can.

This could be because school becomes overwhelming for them after a certain amount of time each day, because of a health condition which impacts their energy levels, or because they have appointments with therapists and specialists which need to occur during school time.

You will need to discuss with your child’s school what arrangements can be made and what support your child will need to help them learn while they are at school.

For example, you might arrange for your child to do physical education classes and art at school, helped by a school support officer, with an arrangement that you will teach your child literacy and numeracy at home.

Another option could be for your child to attend school for half the day and be picked up early, as long as they learn what they need to while they are at school.

Part time schooling doesn’t have to be a permanent arrangement and can be a temporary measure, for example if your child is transitioning into full time school or if their health condition which prevents them from attending school full time is expected to improve.

Homeschooling

In some circumstances it’s not feasible for a child to attend school, or parents may think it’s in the best interests of their child’s learning and wellbeing to have them homeschooled.

If you are confident that you have the skills and ability to teach your child not only the learning contained in the Australian Curriculum, but also the social and everyday skills which children learn at school, you may like to homeschool your child.

There are legal requirements attached to homeschooling, which are specific to each State and Territory, but they generally require you to ensure that your child is receiving an education which meets certain standards and to document your child’s learning.

This could include needing to submit learning plans for the year, having learning goals and tracking how your child is progressing against them.

Your child may also need to be registered through a Government controlled agency as being homeschooled and will need to be either at least five or six years old when they start, depending on your State or Territory rules.

Homeschooling requirements in each State and Territory can be found here:

The benefits of homeschooling for a child with disability can be that you as their parent know their needs best, they can learn in the environment they are most comfortable in and learning can be fitted into a schedule that suits them rather than a schedule that the school sets.

However, there are many skills which children learn from interacting with their peers at school which you may find difficult to teach them at home, and school also gives them an opportunity to make new friends or meet new people outside their regular network.

Children are required to be in school between the ages of six and 16. Homeschooling doesn’t have to begin straight after preschool, you can begin homeschooling your child at any age before they reach their final year of schooling.

You do not have to homeschool your child for their entire school life  either, and you are able to enrol your child to attend a school at any point.

Keep in mind they may need a plan to help them transition to or return to a school environment.

Distance education

Another option which allows children to learn from home if they can’t attend school regularly is distance education.

Distance education is mostly delivered through online classes, with learning resources sent to students through online portals.

Teachers may interact with students via video conferencing platforms, emails or phone calls.

Distance education can be used for a variety of reasons - including if it is too difficult for a child with disability to attend school either because of the distance they live away from the school or because of medical conditions or difficulties with learning in a classroom with other students.

In high school in particular, distance education could also provide your child with the opportunity to take subjects which are not available at their regular school.

For example, your child may attend school for four subjects but also want to study accounting or a foreign language. If their school doesn’t have enough students selecting that subject to be able to offer it, the subject could be delivered through distance education while the student continues to study their other subjects in person at school.

Class sizes in distance education tend to be smaller than in person school classes, but you must have access to the internet and relatively modern technological equipment, such as certain computer programs.

It is also important that your child is comfortable with their learning being delivered mostly online, although you may be able to support them in person with some of their education.

More information about the State and Territory specific distance education options is available through these websites:

Distance education designed for students with autism is also available through Autism Spectrum Australia, although the program does include at least 15 in person attendance days at the Aspect Hunter School in New South Wales each year.

Where to find more information

You can compare schools using the MySchools website under a range of different headings, but it’s also good to contact schools in your area, or distance education providers to ask what flexible schooling options might be available.

State and Territory department of education information about schooling for students with disability can be found here:

Are you considering part time school, homeschooling or distance education for your child? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content

Kids 5-12 years

Teenagers 13-17 years

School transitions for children with autism