Autistic boy deemed 'too wordy' for special school

Goya Bennett
February 4, 2011


Janine Kepert and son Matthew. Photo: Scott McNaughton

A BOY with autism has been refused enrolment at a special school because the Education Department determined that he knows too many words.

Matthew, 5, missed his first day of prep after the department's western region office rejected his application for Western Autistic School at the Niddrie or Laverton campus.

Although he self-harms and cannot hold a pencil, Matthew was deemed to have scored too well on the entrance test, which was based on language.

His mother, Yarraville resident Janine Kepert, said she felt as though she was being punished for paying for a speech pathologist to help Matthew when he was younger.

Matthew's autism was picked up when he was 18 months old, and he was officially diagnosed when he was two. ''He is prone to violence, prone to harming himself and others, he has poor attention and concentration, and he wanders,'' Ms Kepert said.

''He can't hold a paintbrush or a pencil, or draw. His vocabulary is good, but it's not useful language - it's not pragmatic.''

She has lodged an appeal against the department's decision and is awaiting the outcome.

Ms Kepert said it was important for enrolments and appeals to be finalised before the start of the school year.

''Children with autism, they love structure and routine,'' she said.

''All other parents know well in advance what school their children will be attending.''

Williamstown MP Wade Noonan said he would raise the issue at the first sitting of State Parliament.

He is calling for an urgent review of enrolment processes for prep-aged students who have autism.

''Unfortunately, some parents with prep-aged autistic children are battling their way through a cumbersome and bureaucratic process in order to secure appropriate schooling for their children,'' Mr Noonan said.

Department spokesman Travis Parnaby said students with disabilities were assessed using internationally recognised World Health Organisation definitions.

''The department will continue to work with the family and the local primary school where Matthew is enrolled to ensure that the necessary support is in place from the first day of school,'' he said.

''In addition, the department will continue to provide assistance in the event that enrolment at Western Autistic School is possible.''

from http://www.theage.com.au/national/education/autistic-boy-deemed-too-wordy-for-special-school-20110203-1afh3.html

Comments

hyperlexia and autism

The size of a child's vocabulary has nothing to do with whether they have autism ... or the degree of their autism.

Some children with autism are hyperlexic. The relationship between hyperlexia and autism is unclear ... they can be comorbid conditions (from close personal experience). I would expect a school specifically for children with autism would know that.

Some hyperlexics have trouble understanding speech and language, especially hyperlexics who also have autism.

Good news

A week is a short time ... and a bit of public attention seems to focus the mind of politicians and officials.

Special school reprieve

February 9, 2011

A YARRAVILLE mother has expressed relief after being told her son may attend a special school to which the Education Department had originally denied him access.

As reported by The Age, Matthew, 5, had been refused entry to the Western Autistic School because the department determined he knew too many words.

He missed his first day of prep after the department's western region office rejected his application to attend the school's Niddrie or Laverton campus.

Although he self-harms and cannot hold a pencil, Matthew was deemed to have scored too well in the entrance test, which was based on language.

The department has now reversed its decision.

Matthew's mother Janine Kepert said department regional director Katherine Henderson offered her son a place because of compelling circumstances.

''Hopefully, he'll only miss one week of school,'' Ms Kepert said. ''It's just a huge relief. I think it was because of all the pressure that was put on them through the articles in the paper. For the regional director to come in and offer this place is a pretty big deal. I just hope no other parent has to go through this.''

GOYA BENNETT

from http://www.theage.com.au/national/education/special-school-reprieve-20110208-1almr.html