Parents call for autism school

A GROUP of Bendigo parents are determined to start an autism-specific school, to ensure their children's needs are met.
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Bendigo autism advocate Beck Kelly believes the public education system is struggling to deal with the special needs of children with autism. She has joined with fellow parents to gain independent funding and government support for an autism-specific school.

Currently one in 29 children under seven are on the autism spectrum, and Ms Kelly said the community was facing a huge generation of people living on the dole if teaching methods didn't change.

She said a non-IQ based autism-specific prep to year 12 school would cater for specific learning programs, employ adults living with autism, and offer a training site for uni students.

The group of parents met with Member for Bendigo East Maree Edwards and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Education Colin Brooks on Wednesday to call for further government funding.

Ms Edwards said the event was part of a series of forums hosted by the Labor government to help policy development.

"Some of their stories were very emotional and very overwhelming," she said.

"There were no promises or commitments but we have listened to where the system is failing and will use that as a basis for policy development."

Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters yesterday threw her support behind further funding for central Victorian schools, saying children with disabilities rarely met funding criteria.

Ms Kelly said regardless of government support, Bendigo parents were determined to ensure equality in education.

"We are already seeing cutbacks in the school system and with more and more children being diagnosed, it's just going to get worse for our children," she said.

"We will do everything to make sure our children are given the opportunity to learn and have a future."

The Department of Education did not respond to specific queries from the Bendigo Advertiser but said it had a coordinated support model to address all children's needs.