Victorian schools are failing when it comes to supporting autistic students.
Amaze’s latest research shows that only 13 per cent of Victorian schools have an effective process for dealing with the bullying of autistic students and only 19 per cent adjust their sensory environment.
However, there are schools, such as St Joachim’s Catholic Primary School, Carrum Downs, that are embracing inclusive education practices and supporting autistic students.
Blake Livera, 11, is an autistic student who loves attending St Joachim’s.
Blake has access to a ‘peaceful place’, with beanbags, that helps him calm down whenever he feels overwhelmed.
Two years ago, he took his Year 3 NAPLAN test in his ‘peaceful place’, away from all the stresses of an exam room.
This year, he took his Year 5 NAPLAN test with the rest of the students — a direct result of his school’s adjustments and the confidence it has given him in the classroom.
Blake experiences light sensitivity and is allowed to sit with his back to windows, and, if needed, wear sunglasses in class.
The school’s most helpful adjustment is Blake’s teacher’s adoption of ‘one voice’.
Blake said: “One Voice is when you keep your tone low and it’s always one tone. When you’re happy, use happy describing words; when you’re angry, use angry describing words. But their voice stays the same.”
Speaking in one tone helps Blake’s concentration, as it doesn’t trigger his auditory sensitivities or confuse him.
Outside school, Blake’s dance and sports teachers have also adopted the One Voice way of speaking.
Previously, Blake did not participate in extracurricular activities, but now has the support to do so.
Every morning, the vice principal of St Joachim’s meets Blake at the front of the school and informs him of his daily agenda so he has clarity over his routine and knows what to expect.
Blake’s mum, Melinda, has been distressed hearing that other parents do not want their children to share a class with Blake, but says the school has been unwavering in its support of Blake’s needs.
“Many of the adjustments his school have made are not expensive things. They’re small, practical things,” Melinda said.
While Blake has a positive story and a supportive school, this is not the case for the majority of autistic students in Victoria and Australia.
Soon, Blake will continue his education at high school and unfortunately there are no guarantees that his support system will continue.
It’s Blake’s goal to be a forensic scientist and that means completing high school and university.
Currently, 35% of autistic students do not complete Year 10. If our schools do not make more adjustments to support the individual needs of autistic students like Blake, their goals and dream will not come true.
To learn more about autism and education and the ’10 things schools should do’ to improve the education experience for autistic students, go to www.onethingforautism.com.au