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Curriculum 'failing' autistic kids

Autism can lock a child away inside their own mind.
Autism can lock a child away inside their own mind. Contributed

JUDY Nelson worries about the future of her children every day and believes the current primary school curriculum is letting down her seven-year-old daughter Bronte.

Ms Nelson, who asked that her and her daughter's names be changed to protect their identity, says primary schools are trying to make autistic children fit like "square pegs in round holes" and deny parents input into how their children are educated.

Autism Queensland spokeswoman Teresa Irvine said she agreed with the Nambour mother-of-four.

"The schools assess the children and they tell you what your child needs and the parents get no say on what help their children get and where the help is going," Mrs Irvine said.

Ms Nelson added: "It's the parents and their specialists that know the children best."

Special education teacher Margie Cross said Education Queensland allowed school principals to manage resourcing for disabilities within schools.

She said the school looked at the child and decided what they could offer with resources and programming and how the child could best be supported.

"What we do is devise a program that is modified or adjusted and we will also have strategies in place - a child could be in Year 6 but still at a Year 2 standard," Mrs Cross said.

Ms Nelson said the general consensus from other parents with autistic children was that changes within the current primary school curriculum needed to be made.

"The schools tell us they're providing a service but they're just modifying a curriculum," Ms Nelson said.

"Autistic kids need special programs because they're not modified in the right way.

"They modify them by bringing them downwards.

"If regular kids have 30 spelling words every week, (Bronte) may have a five-word spelling list of cat, mat, sat, hat, and bat.

"But even so, she still won't get it, but she's supposed to.

"They're trying to do science and geography classes and it doesn't mean anything to (Bronte) - it's overwhelming.

"That's why autistic kids like (Bronte) lash out and can become disruptive or violent because they don't understand.

"She's sitting there bored and frustrated and she just can't cope.

"If a better system were provided that they understood, maybe this wouldn't happen."

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show 9700 autistic school-aged children living in Queensland in 2009.

Eighty-two per cent of children who attended school had difficulty with communication, learning and social skills.

"A truly autistic child finds it difficult in a mainstream classroom," Mrs Cross said.

"But there are benefits from the exposure and positive social skills and also the communication of what we call the hidden curriculum like learning to look at facial cues.

"The benefit for regular kids in the classroom is they can build up an understanding and tolerance to children with disabilities."

The ABS reported that while schools in Australia were providing some support to help autistic children, the latest data indicated that more needed to be done to help these children so they could one day enter into further education and the labour force.

 

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Topics:  autism education lifestyle school



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