State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed believes a new school for autistic children should be considered for the Victorian Government’s Shepparton Education Plan.
Ms Sheed met with Education Minister James Merlino last week following a speech in Parliament during which she asked him to consider providing appropriate services for students with autism spectrum disorder as part of the government’s plan to overhaul education in the region.
Ms Sheed said establishing an autistic school in regional Victoria was a key recommendation of this year’s Inquiry into Services for People with Autism Spectrum Disorder and said Shepparton would be an ideal location.
‘‘Shepparton district is home to a significant number of young people with ASD and there are high levels of disadvantage in our community,” Ms Sheed said.
‘‘Many of these children are being home-schooled or have disengaged from schooling altogether, simply because they do not have affordable access to services that sufficiently cater to their needs.
‘‘There has long been a lack of understanding and knowledge in the school sector about ASD and need to find a model that will work.
‘‘At a time when we have strong government interest in transforming the way education is delivered to students in our region, it would make sense for Shepparton to be considered as the home for the first school of this kind in regional Victoria.’’
Policy manager for Amaze, the peak body for autistic people and their supporters in Victoria, Braedan Hogan said children with autism had better outcomes in mainstream education with the right support and an inclusive environment.
‘‘We know that schools aren’t meeting the needs of children with autism, but are happy with the work of James Merlino and the government on a reform that ensures schools are more inclusive and meet the individual needs of students,’’ Mr Hogan said.
‘‘Autistic students are better in mainstream schooling with the resources for their needs and not in a separate environment.
‘‘There is overwhelming evidence the autistic students have better outcomes being in mainstream education, the evidence also suggest their peers have better outcomes as well.’’
Mr Hogan said students were not helped by being secluded and should be in an environment more representative of the real world as opposed to segregated schooling.
‘‘We need to create a more inclusive culture across society and in schools, we don’t have to make additional barriers,’’ he said.
‘‘The statistics show one in 100 children are with ASD and the overwhelming majority are in mainstream schooling.’’
Mr Hogan said it was best if schools were given the resources to support individual needs.
The Shepparton Education Plan strategic advisory committee, which Ms Sheed chairs, is due to submit its recommendation regarding secondary schooling to Mr Merlino next month.