Key terms explained: People who can help your child and family

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Following are plain language explanations of some of the main organisations and professionals who can help your child and family.

School staff and other professionals can sometimes forget what it is like to come in from outside the system, and try to understand what is going on, and how does what. As your child’s parent or carer, you have a key role to play. If you don’t understand what is being said in a meeting or document, it’s very reasonable to ask person concerned to explain.

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Advocate or advocacy worker –Someone who helps you to understand your child’s rights, and to speak up about your choices for them. Many organisations like ACD have staff who can advocate for you. There are also community advocates, and you can advocate for yourself and your child. The advocate can’t be someone who is paid to represent you, like a lawyer.

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Advocacy organisations – or disability advocacy organisation. The Association for Children with a Disability is a disability advocacy organisation. We give people individual advocacy by supporting families to understand their child’s rights and speak up for them. We also do broader advocacy – speaking up for the rights of all children and family, and trying to make the system work better for people.

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Community advocate – This is an Aboriginal term. A community advocate can be anyone in community that the family trusts and respects as acting in the child’s best interests. They might be appointed by other community members to visit families, and offer support.

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Educational psychologist – A specialist who works with children having difficulties at school because of a learning disability, or behavioural, emotional or mental health problems. They often help with testing, to see if their school can get extra funding for a child. They can be based at the regional education department office, or in disability services. If your child’s school gets extra funding to help them, this can be used for them to see an educational psychologist.

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Education support staff or aide – Someone who works in the classroom to help a child with special needs.

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Guidance officer or psychologist – A specialist who works with children with major behavioural or mental health issues in schools. They can work with the child, and with their school, parent or carer to advise on how to help them. They can be based at the regional education department office.

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Integration coordinator – A school staff member responsible for all students with a special needs.

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Koorie Education Support Officer (KESO) – A specialist worker based in the regional education department office who works with schools, and with children and families. KESOs and regional Coordinators have replaced other departmental Koorie education staff previously based in schools.

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Koorie educator, Koorie education staff – A specialist worker, working in a school with children and their families. Schools might choose to employ a Koorie educator, if they have a number of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students and families in their school community.

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Managed Individual Pathways Coordinator – A school staff member who can support planning for your child’s program in the later years of secondary school, and after school. They can help with issues like choosing subjects, work experience or Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses your child could do at school.

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Occupational therapist (OT) – A therapist who works with children whose disability affects how they do things in everyday life: hold a pencil, feed themselves, bathe or dress, go to the toilet, play and learn. At school, an OT can help work out what changes in the environment can help your child feel comfortable and work. Your child might get funding from the Department of Human Services or NDIS to see an OT. Some specialist schools have an OT on staff.

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Paediatrician – a specialist doctor for children and young people.

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Psychologist – A specialist who works with children with mental health or behavioural issues. They often work in health and disability services. Your child might get funding from the Department of Human Services or NDIS to see a psychologist.

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Physiotherapist – A therapist who works with children with a physical disability, asthma, arthritis or pain caused by problems with joints, muscles or nerves. They work in health and disability services. Your child might get funding from the Department of Human Services or NDIS to see a physio. Some specialist schools have a physio on staff.

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Speech therapist or pathologist – A therapist who works with children with special needs that affect talking and communication. They also help children who have trouble swallowing food or drink. They might be based at the regional education department office, or in health or disability services. If your child’s school gets extra funding to support them, this can be used for them to see a speech therapist.

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Student Support Services Officer, or ‘SSSO’ – A specialist based in an education department regional office who can work with a child directly, or give the school training or suggestions for how to help them. SSSOs include psychologists, guidance officers, speech pathologists, autism specialists, social workers and visiting teachers.

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Visiting teacher – A specialist teacher who works with children with particular special needs. Visiting teachers teach children themselves when they visit, and also advise the school on helping them learn. There are visiting teachers for children who are Deaf or hard of hearing, children who are Blind or vision impaired, and children with physical disabilities. If your child’s school gets extra funding to help them, this can be used for them to see a visiting teacher.

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Welfare Coordinator – School staff member responsible for helping out children and families who are having a hard time due to life pressures. They can give support, and recommend where to get help from a community service.

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