The Victorian Government’s pledge to recruit and deploy 4,100 tutors across the State’s schools in 2021 must be coupled with specialised supports to ensure the program is accessible to and inclusive of autistic students, says Victorian peak autism body Amaze.
The extra tutors will support students who have fallen behind in their education because of the pandemic and remote learning - conditions that have significantly affected students with autism and other disabilities says Amaze Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Fiona Sharkie.
“Autistic students, and students with disability more broadly, have been disproportionately impacted by schooling disruptions due to the pandemic and remote learning this year,” says Ms Sharkie.
“For the tutor program to deliver the best and fairest outcomes, it is essential that special consideration be given to ensure autistic students can access the additional support in an inclusive and accessible way.”
“This needs to be coupled with updated Individual Learning Plans and active Student Support Groups for autistic students to ensure they have the right adjustments to enable them to learn and participate in school life.”
Amaze’s recent Learning in Lockdown report, released in September 2020, considered the impact of remote learning during lockdown, and included a survey of 312 families of autistic students in Victorian schools.
“The report showed that the education of around half of autistic students in Victoria had not progressed since learning remotely, with many autistic students disengaging from learning altogether,” says Ms Sharkie.
“It’s absolutely crucial that we protect these students from falling through the cracks by fully committing to getting their education back on track.”
Amaze also recommends that autism training be available for any of the 4,100 tutors who may require it.
“It’s essential that tutors who will be supporting autistic students are equipped with the training, knowledge and understanding for how to best engage with autistic students and deliver much needed learning support,” adds Ms Sharkie.