More South Australian children with autism will be able to access extra educational support under new changes by the state’s Department of Education.
The Inclusive Education Support Program is new to preschools and schools this year and will replace the former Preschool Support and Disability Support programs in Term 4.
Under the new program, direct funding to preschools and schools for children requiring minor adjustments to their learning will eliminate the need for multiple time-consuming applications to support their learning needs.
Assistant Director of Disability State and National Reform, Lynley Page, says previously 2,000 fewer children have had to undertake a formal assessment each year in order to receive support, leaving many children falling behind in the classroom.
She says the changes allow teachers and specialists working within the school setting to have a more hands-on approach.
“This has significantly reduced 'red tape' for educators and has allowed speech therapists, behaviour specialists and special education experts to do more work directly with teachers and students, rather than acting as 'gatekeepers’ for funding purposes,” Ms Page explains.
“The new program is aimed at providing funding based on need, rather than disability diagnosis or label.
“Our aim is to ensure every child receives the support they need to belong to a preschool or school community, engage purposefully in learning and experience inclusion and academic success.
“The new program allows us to provide this support immediately, ensuring a world-class education for all.”
The Department will also move from its dual diagnosis requirement to access extra education support, to a single diagnosis following updated autism spectrum criteria.
South Australia is the only state that requires two separate autism diagnoses to receive extra support in school with parents waiting up to five years to get their children diagnosed.
“Only children who require more targeted supports and interventions will need to apply for funding via a single, online application process,” Ms Page says.
“The new eligibility criteria have been developed to align with national disability legislation and guidelines, and now include, for the first time, mental health, trauma, complex behaviours and complex health care needs.”
“The criteria been recommended and approved by Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council, and also aligns with current National Disability Insurance Scheme requirements,” Ms Page explains.
Chief Executive Officer of Autism SA Jenny Karavolos, says the organisation supports any changes that enable timely and well-informed supports for children with autism.
“Autistic students should have access to an inclusive education that is needs based and tailored to their unique learning styles,” Ms Karavolos says.