Indigo Crewdson.
Indigo Crewdson.

Mother of autistic child fears for daughter’s education

A PETITION started by a Rockhampton mother who opposes supposed changes to special education classes has been digitally signed by more than 250 people.

Sarah Crewdson, whose autistic daughter Indigo attends Berserker Street State School, set up an online petition because she feared that efforts by the Education Department to “integrate” some special needs classes with mainstream ones, while well-intentioned, could have negative effects on many children.

She said she had not received a clear answer about the department’s specific intentions, and as a parent, simply wanted clarity.

“Not a lot of parents know this is happening,” Ms Crewdson said.

“That’s the most worrying thing: parents don’t know what’s going to happen with their children.

“It’s a very confusing situation.”

The department responded to a request for information by saying that in accordance with its policies, “students experience inclusive education when they can access and fully participate in learning, alongside their similar-aged peers, supported by reasonable adjustments and/or teaching strategies tailored to meet their individual needs.”

Sarah Crewdson with her daughter Indigo.
Sarah Crewdson with her daughter Indigo.

But Ms Crewdson is specifically concerned about the potential removal of segregated classes for kids who need particular attention.

“What scares me a lot about all of that is that some kids need those quieter classrooms in order to learn,” she said.

“They [schools] don’t have the funding or the extra staff members to be able to work in a way that the kids will get the learning they need in those bigger classes.

“Once they [autistic children] have a meltdown … if the teacher or teacher aide can’t cope, the child gets sent home, so they’re excluded from school. That’s not an inclusive policy.”

She said that when Indigo tried learning in a mainstream class, she was upset by the change of environment.

“Indigo was mainstream-classed and she did express a lot that she wanted her other classroom.

“They put everyone in the one basket, and I feel that they’re doing it to cut costs.

“We just don’t know what’s going on. What safety measures are they going to take?”

The department told Ms Crewdson that any change made under its policy “does not mean students with a disability have to be in the same classroom as their peers for the whole day every day.”

“Some students with disability may need more focused or intensive teaching in smaller groups to access part of the curriculum for some of the school day depending on the impact of their disability,” the Department told Ms Crewdson.

The Department later told The Morning Bulletin that Berserker Street State School would hold information sessions in Term 4 for parents to better understand the future of the special education program.

“Staff at the school are dedicated to responding to the different strengths and barriers to learning that exist for each student, and utilise a well-staffed Special Education Program to support this,” it said.

“The Special Education Program will continue into 2021, and plays a key role in the school’s improvement agenda, focusing on best practices in teaching and learning.

“Any parents or caregiver enquires or concerns can be directed to the school principal or their closest Department of Education regional office.”

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