The education system is not adequately meeting the needs of students with a disability, says Stephanie Gotlib, Children with Disability Australia (CDA) executive officer.
While the recent case of a Canberra school locking an autistic student in a cage was deplorable, Gotlib says this kind of abuse extends to children with other disabilities as well.
“This is a matter of education. It’s not just autistic children that are subjected to restrictive practices, its children with a range of different types of disabilities,” Gotlib told The Educator.
“If we narrowed down the anecdotal reports that we’re getting there probably would be a higher prevalence of children with autism diagnosis.”
Gotlib believes there needs to be a bigger conversation around how to ensure a proper education for special needs students - as well as professional training for teachers in this area.
“To me, the conversation seems to be somewhat limited to ‘how do we respond to higher behaviour support needs?’, but we need to look more holistically around how we can provide a quality education for students with a disability,” Gotlib explained.
“We need to look at a whole range of things in terms of how teachers can engage and ensure that these children can access their education.”
Gotlib said that despite certain differences in considerations when it comes to educating students with a disability, a similar approach should be taken by educators when it comes to ensuring the access they have to education.
“There are obviously specific considerations for children with a disability, but it’s not much different to what you would do for any other child when you’re approaching how you’re going to provide an education for a child.”
Gotlib added there needs to be a bigger conversation around this issue to ensure that an adequate level of support is provided for students with disabilities and that sufficient training is given to teaching staff to help them cope.
“We need to look at what supports children need, what modifications are needed in classrooms and professional development for teachers.
“The CDA would certainly look at these incidents as abuse and as a crime, because it’s not acceptable in any other circumstances, so why would it be acceptable if a child has a disability?
“It’s reflective of a much broader range of issues where the educational system is not adequately meeting these needs.”
HAVE YOUR SAY: In what ways can the education system better support students who have a disability?