An introduction to education supports for students with disabilities

acd resource learning together 18

A brief introduction to how Victoria’s schools cater for the very diverse needs of students with disabilities.

On this page:

There are an estimated 100,000+ students in Victorian government, Catholic and independent schools who have a disability that affects their learning. These students’ learning and support needs vary enormously, and can be met in a range of different ways.

You can approach your child’s school about their support and learning needs at any time. You might be aware of your child’s disability before applying to a school, whether they are starting prep or year 7, or transferring schools. Or your child’s additional needs might emerge or change while they are in school. Some children are diagnosed with a disability or additional needs during the process of enrolling at school.

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Planning to meet your child’s needs

All students benefit when their parents or carers get involved in supporting their education. This is especially important if your child has a disability. Indeed, under the Commonwealth Disability Standards for Education, schools are legally required to consult with you about your child’s disability and its impact on their learning needs.

The main way this should happen is through what is called a Student Support Group (SSG) (or its equivalent in the Catholic or independent school systems, the Program Support Group). This is a regular group meeting that includes you, your child’s teacher/s, the principal, assistant principal and/or other staff such as an integration coordinator. Your child can attend, and you can bring a support person to assist you. Other professionals can also be invited to attend when useful.

The SSG’s role is to gain a good understanding of your child’s needs, and with information supplied by you and others, plan how to meet those needs. This should all be documented in your child’s individual learning plan. The SSG then looks at any funded or other resources needed to support your child’s plan; it makes recommendations about these to the principal, who makes the final decisions. You can raise a concern with the school if you feel that your child is not receiving the support they need.

All students with a disability can benefit from regular SSG meetings – not only those whose schools receive supplementary funding to support them, for example through the Program for Students with a Disability (about one in four students with a disability). SSGs are compulsory for those students.

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Individualised teaching and ‘reasonable adjustments’

The needs of many students with a disability in mainstream schools can be met though individualised teaching approaches and ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the classroom and to school programs. Part of this is about teachers using the right tool in their existing ‘toolbox’ of teaching techniques to suit your child’s learning needs. School staff can get training, support and resources to help them tailor their teaching, and to build their skills in meeting students’ needs.

School can make a range of adjustments to meet your child’s communications or mobility needs, manage their medical or personal care, or bring aspects of their therapy into their learning. Or schools can adjust the presentation of information or learning materials, or tailor your child’s assignments, homework or assessment. Support and adjustments should focus not only on your child’s academic learning, but also on their communication, social learning and inclusion in the school community.

If there is no way that an activity can be adjusted to be accessible for your child, the school must provide your child with an alternative activity of equal educational value, in the context of the broader school program.

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Other supports and resources

Government schools can draw on a range of resources to support your child, including:

A similar range of supports are available in the Catholic and independent school systems.

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Funding

Part of every school’s general funding should be used to support students with additional needs. Some students require bigger adjustments and more intensive assistance. Their school can access various types of funding to help support them, including through the PSD and other programs outlined in this section of Learning Together.

According to Department of Education and Training (DET) policy, funding should not limit or define the support that your child receives at school. Legally, the reasonable adjustment of school programs and the provision of additional support should not result in additional costs to you as parent or carer, whatever type of school your child attends.

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Out of school hours care programs

Many families need to use before- and after-school care and vacation care options, so that parents and carers can work or study. Most mainstream primary schools have programs available at the school, although those in government school are often run by local councils or community agencies (especially vacation care programs). Federal funding is available to help out of school hours care programs meet the needs of students with a disability, for example by funding extra staff, resources, training or equipment.

Most secondary schools do not have before or after-school care or vacation care programs, although there is a federally-funded program called ‘Outside School Hours Care for Teenagers with a Disability, available at some specialist schools and community agencies.

For more information about out of school hours care programs, ask your school, your local council or disability service provider or your regional DET office.

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