Use specialist input to make your case

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If you have a concern to raise with school, therapists and other specialists can help reinforce your message, and provide expert advice and support to help develop a sustainable solution.

On this page:

Many ways that specialists can help

Specialists can support your child’s education journey in many ways. They can:

  • Observe your child in class, to better understand their needs and the school environment
  • Work directly with your child and the staff in class and beyond
  • Provide information and advice about learning needs and effective teaching approaches for students with your child’s diagnosis – different disabilities often require very different approaches
  • Give advice about your child’s individual needs, ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the curriculum or learning environment that will support them, and funding sources to support these
  • Provide or advise on professional development to deepen staff knowledge and skills
  • Assist with education planning, including goal setting, and support those goals in therapy
  • Advise on how to incorporate therapeutic goals into your child’s school routines
  • Advise on equipment needs, and contribute to personal care, safety or behaviour support plans
  • Provide therapist reports or assessment to support funding applications.
  • Find out more about getting specialist input.

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Helping you to raise concerns and find solutions

Families in Learning Together use specialist support in various ways to ‘make the case’ for their child’s needs. Many discuss issues with specialists first, to consider how best to raise them at school. A number asked the school to invite a specialist to an SSG meeting, to discuss ways they could help. Others spoke of specialists who would approach the school directly, offering help – with their permission. All the roles outlined above can help you and the school to better understand your child’s needs and challenges, and to develop sustainable and creative solutions. Often the suggestions that specialists make can be surprisingly simple, and yet make a world of difference.

Several families observed that schools sometimes respond more positively to suggestions from specialists than to similar suggestions made by parents or carers. Expert advice can certainly strengthen your case. And as Tania says (see quote in How can you find an advocate or support person), it can also take the pressure off you.

One family we interviewed (see Anthony and Mel’s story) found their child’s occupational therapist a very valuable support. She took on the role of liaison with the school, whereby they would regularly express their frustrations to her, and she would draw on that input to inform her work with the school, for example by offering ideas, advice and support to staff.

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Finding specialists

Your child might already see a specialist through school, whether a therapist on staff (as in many specialist schools) or an one funded through the Program for Students with Disabilities. Whether or not your child is on the PSD, you can ask that the school seek input from SSSO specialist staff in the regional DET office, or similar professionals in the Catholic or independent school systems.

Your child might be seeing a therapist or other specialist outside school, perhaps with funding through DHS, NDIS or Medicare. You can suggest to the school that they invite your child’s specialist to an SSG meeting as a first step. Or the therapist can contact the school directly – with your permission – and offer to work with them.

  • Find contacts for many different specialist services in our Through the Maze resource.

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Raising the idea of specialist input with the school

It might feel daunting to raise the idea with school. Some parents or carers might worry that the staff will be defensive, or that their teaching practices will be criticised. However, many families have found schools to be very open to input, if approached in the right way. Everyone’s knowledge and skills can be improved, and a ‘team approach’ – involving you, the school and appropriate specialists – is a great way to achieve that that. Indeed, this approach is a key feature of the support system for students with disabilities in Victoria.

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Build and offer your own expert knowledge

Over time, many parents and carers become experts in their child’s disability, including therapeutic and educational approaches that can benefit their child. Many spend time researching the latest learning about their child’s disability, including through online forums and publications, support groups and workshops. This learning – along with your personal knowledge of your child’s individual needs, strengths and challenges – is extremely valuable. You should feel confident to offer it in your interactions with the school.

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