Only US school can help our son

A MELBOURNE family is moving to the US for "emergency education" because it believes the Victorian school system has failed their 11-year-old son.

The autistic boy is from one of at least nine families suing the Education Department through the Federal Court for discrimination and what they claim is inadequate education.

Some families say they have spent up to $100,000 on therapy, tutoring and legal fees in their bids to get their "left behind" disabled children up to speed.

While experts warn parents their court battles could come with big financial and psychological costs, the desperate mums and dads say legal action has become a last resort.

The mother moving her family to the US next month said she sent her "severely autistic" son to three Melbourne schools before researching overseas options.

The family will continue Federal Court action against the Education Department after settling in a US school that specialises in teaching autistic children.

"It's very hard going to court, but it's also very hard not to. We're hoping to avoid a ghastly outcome for our son," the mother said.

"It's a pretty lonely life for him at the moment. He does not have grade-five language and he doesn't have much confidence around his peers. But he's a learner, so we're excited about him making progress."

Documents lodged with the Federal Court show the family's claims include expenses for "emergency education" in the US.

Other students with discrimination cases in the Federal Court include:

A GIRL, 13, with several diagnosed learning disabilities who, according to her mother, has been denied funding for an aide despite "having the reading and writing skills of a grade one (student)".

A BOY, 16, allegedly suffering low self-esteem, anxiety, bullying and victimisation because his learning difficulties were not properly addressed by a Melbourne high school.

Bendigo mother Anne Maree Stewart is also considering legal action against the state education system. She claims her son Matthew, 9, who has a form of autism called Asperger's syndrome, has at times been "treated like a piece of dirt" because of his disability.

Children with a Disability Australia executive officer Stephanie Gotlib said education standards were the chief concern for parents of disabled children.

But child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg urged parents to think carefully about legal action.

"I can certainly understand their frustration. But the psychological impact of having your shortcomings paraded in the public arena may not be in the best interests of these kids."

An Education Department spokeswoman said its $550 million Program for Students with Disabilities supported 20,000 students.

barrye@heraldsun.com.au

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