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Engaging with schools for parents of students with disability may involve some additional considerations.
All students have the right to an inclusive education. Inclusive education is about more than children simply being enrolled in a mainstream preschool or school. It is about children participating fully alongside their friends and everyone else in school. Inclusive education involves welcoming and valuing all students as equal members in the school community.
Research shows that inclusive education is better for all children. In inclusive classrooms, children with and without disability show increased communication development, more positive behaviour, greater independence and better outcomes in reading, writing and mathematics. Children also show a more positive sense of self-worth and greater acceptance of diversity. More detailed information on inclusive education and its outcomes can be obtained from CYDA’s issues paper Inclusion in Education: Towards equality for students with disability, available here. Alternatively, hard copies of the paper can be obtained by contacting CYDA at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 03 9417 1025 or 1800 222 660 (regional or interstate callers).
It is important that schools understand their obligations to consult and communicate with parents of students with disability. The Disability Standards for Education 2005 state that education providers must consult with both students and parents about curriculum adjustments, participation in class and more. It is important for parents to find workable ways to regularly communicate with teachers and others who are involved with their children.
Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are an important process that requires ongoing collaboration between parents and schools. IEPs should ensure that all of the people involved in each student’s life are ‘on the same page’ and have documented agreement regarding their roles and the goals that they are working towards to support student learning.
It is also important that schools consult and communicate with parents about reforms and initiatives that impact students with disability. This is particularly important in relation to the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability. It is the view of CYDA that schools should provide parents with information about what the NCCD is, why and how the data is being collected and what information about each child is collected. However, it should be noted that schools do not have a legal obligation to obtain consent or consult with families of children participating in the NCCD. If you have any questions, it is advised that you contact your child’s Principal. If you require further information, you can contact the appropriate representative for your child’s school type (government, independent or Catholic) in your state. A contact list for the NCCD can be on the NCCD website.
Advocacy is about speaking up or raising awareness by talking to others (e.g. teachers, principals or other parents) about issues or situations that require change in order to make life better. For parents, talking to the school about what specific support is required and how this will be provided is a form of ‘self-advocacy.’
Supporting children’s schooling is a key role for all parents. There may be established ways and opportunities for you to meet and talk to the school about your child.
The following factors can be helpful in advocating for your child at school:
‘Individual advocacy’ involves assistance from a person or organisation to resolve issues of specific relevance to a child or young person with disability and their family. There are a number of state and territory individual advocacy organisations that can assist students with disability and families. A list of some individual advocacy organisations is available here. If you need further assistance with obtaining information or support then please contact CYDA at email@example.com or by phoning 03 9417 1025 or 1800 222 660 (regional or interstate callers).