A story headed Disabled children are left behind in the Bendigo Advertiser (see below) raised issues about how the education system in Victoria addresses the needs of children with ASD.
An official from the Victorian Education Department responded immediately (see below). Unfortunately, the officials's response was just wrong, as is far too often the case (e.g. http://a4.org.au/a4/node/824).
The response to the official's claims was immediate and "direct". Ms Kelly wrote to the Bendigo Advertiser and posted her letter on facebook (link here) where her message to the Bendigo Advertiser received significant support from families in her region.
In reference to Jeanette Nagorcka's not so well thought out letter/response in today's Bendigo Advertiser.
I have evidence and physical proof that every word you wrote in your letter titled Disabled Children article concerns is inaccurate. But at least you responded, unlike all of the letters and complaints that have been sent to you not only from this region but others including Geelong that you have chosen to dismiss.
As stated in the article that went to press last Monday a majority of the schools in our region are not adhering to the Departments own policy. This includes staff who work at the Department of Education. These teachers that you speak of can you please tell me what schools they are from? Can you please also explain to me how having seclusion zones placed around a child with additional needs constitutes inclusiveness? How giving a child with autism an ipad for 6 hours is educating them? How it is o.k. for a child who is at risk of absconding is left alone in a classroom for up to 30 minutes whilst the rest of the class go to library? (150 metres from an unfenced off railway line) How a child who is systematically bullied everyday is punished by not being allowed to play outside during lunch and recess periods? How a child with autism can be roped out of a tree and then taped to a chair in the principals office, by said principal? How parents are being called to pick up their children 2 hrs into a school day because the school doesn't have a clue how to teach them? How children in schools are subjected to physical restraint over and over again? How parents are being told that their child can only attend school for 3-4 hours a week? How children with autism are bullied and hit by other students but are being told by a teacher if they were not so "weird" it wouldn't happen? How children with autism are told by their teachers that if they want to be normal like their peers they need to start behaving like it? Would you like me to continue? I could go on and on and on. Now let me address the training of staff. The next time you "visit" one of your schools ask the teaching aides what qualifications they have, ask them what they would do in a meltdown or sensory overload situation. Ask the staff to explain to you what executive functioning is, ask how many children with additional needs have had functional behavioural assessments done, ask the staff where a child in overload goes to self regulate, ask them if they know what self regulation is, ask to see proof of monthly PD sessions teachers should be undertaking to learn and understand how a child with autism learns and if they are putting what they have learnt into practice, is there an autistic adult mentor the school can contact to explain the differences these children have from neurotypicals?
The children at this school deserve better, the parents of these children deserve better and the teaching staff who are educating these children deserve better.
Lastly I would like you to know that not all schools in this region are like the ones mentioned above. There are some brilliant schools in the region with some amazing teachers and this includes teaching aides that have taken the time to educate themselves and work with the parents to better understand the children they are helping to educate. But Ms Nagorcka for you to publicly claim that all of the teachers in the region are dedicated and doing the right thing by students, this is a falsehood. On my radio program today I personally invited you to appear on my show and we could discuss this matter live on air. The offer still stands.
Last but not least let me leave you with a response from Disability Law Advocate Julie Phillips to your letter.
I was impressed with the speed at which Regional Director Jeanette Nagorcka responded to the article "Disabled children are left behind" given the months I have waited for a response from her when writing on behalf of parents of children with disabilities attending schools in the Bendigo region. My advocacy has unfortunately often related to the physical restraint of children with disabilities (particularly autism) in response to challenging behaviours which Ms Nagorcka has sanctioned every time, despite none of the children subjected to this restraint having had the benefit of a Positive Behaviour Plan developed according to Dept of Ed guidelines, or competent behavioural interventions. A small number of schools and specific staff, including a Dept of Ed psychologist, are commonly associated with this restraint. From taping children to chairs to dangerous prone restraints, children are regularly put at risk in this region. Children deserve more. By all means contact Ms Nagorcka – ask her for the names of the schools where parents have alerted her to bullying and restraint. Ask her why the same complaints about the same schools/staff are made repeatedly over the years and nothing is done. Then speak to the families about their trauma.