The thing about having an ASD child is that each has specific social needs and challenge. There is no vanilla-middle solution for schoosl who prefer to aggregate day to day life. ASD kids (especially high functioning – who are often gifted and talented too) find themselves in a battle-ground and their parents soon learn more ammo means less problem.
It is not okay for school to ‘accommodate’ ASD kids. If, as a parent you want to survive school too, you have to be fairly ruthless at times. Whether you wrangle the public system or go private, it all comes down to negotiating what you want and getting it. Sitting back and hoping they have it covered never works out.
There are times where the school flatly refuses to provide the extra social skills and internal organisational skills that are needed in many cases. They offer try to convince you they’ve got it covered – making excuses and falling back on jargon and policy rhetoric or saying ‘they have a program’. They often don’t, they just want you to give up – as ASD kids are challenging, never vanilla and require some effort.
If you are parenting a child with ASD the big-rules are simple.
Your child has a legal right to same educational opportunities as other children. This does not preclude social, civil, economic, political and cultural rights. This is protected by Univeral Human Rights to which Australia is a signatory, and specific Rights of the Child in Australia, which in recent years has been bolstered with greater ASD awareness.
Don’t accept the ‘we don’t have the money or time’ excuse. If that’s their view – be ruthless. It is their responsibility to find it because the law is not about accommodation of a personal belief of the staff – it’s only about the rights of the child. There is no ‘we can’t do anything option’ Sure they can, and it’s not being ‘difficult’ to take a shot over the bows to give them fair warning – you are not unaware of the legalities.
There is no school or department clause or weasel-worlds that negates or over-rides these rights. Sadly, the implementation is something for negotiation. So pick your fights wisely – negotiate first – but be prepared to stand up and take it further if and when needed. Chances are your resolve will be tested again and again.
A useful piece of ammo is this. In 2012 and 2013, the Australian government set aside additional funding. Again, it is the job of the school to know about this, and how to access it. If they don’t you have the right to point at it with a large stick and ask why not?
Services are being delivered in the 2012 and 2013 school years include:
b. the National Plan for School Improvement
c. the Review of the Disability Standards for Education
d. the introduction of the Australian Curriculum
e. the National Professional Standards for Teachers
It is reasonable to ask them to pay attention to these things and if they don’t know about them, work with you to find out. Being busy isn’t acceptable. If they refuse, ask them to put their refusal in writing and explain. It’s never no, it has to be no … because.
The reason human rights is a battleground, is due to the lack of human rights education in Australia. This was determined to be a national emergency by Father Frank Brennan’s National Human Rights Consultation in 2008. As recently as 2012, the United Nations continued to criticise Australia for the absence of a national strategy for educating children and young people about human rights.
As any parent of a child with ASD soon learns, one of the most powerful things you can do for your child is discuss human-rights in general with them and ensure that they know they don’t stand outside of society, but are have a right for society to make significant efforts towards their needs. And in school this means active, not passive.
For example. It isn’t acceptable for a primary school to high school transition to occur without both schools being very active in ensuring the child has effective support on day 1. It’s not something to work to, or to whine about lack of funding of. In some cases, school simply don’t return phone calls or emails, let along actually meet their legal obligations.
If your teacher, head of department or executive are fobbing your off, then you have options. One of the most attention-getting is to start blogging about the issue, the second is start finding out about online-support and advocacy groups such as http://www.autismspectrum.org.au. The problems kids will face – especially in high school are significant. Being an expert and an advocate really helps – but only if you are active and willing to stand your ground. Because guess what, your ASD kid isn’t equipped to deal with adults who don’t want to make the effort to understand them – which is why their rights are protected.