Preparing for school is a complex process when you have an Autistic child, and planning for the transition to school should start as early as possible.
The first thing to do is to find out about the different schooling options available to Autistic students.
You can find a range of information sheets to help with your choice of school in the Resources section of this website.
Once you have decided on your chosen schooling option, make a list of preferred schools and get in touch with them to get a feel for each school. Here are some things to consider after that first contact call:
A positive school environment is one where you and your child are made welcome, your concerns are addressed in a timely way, and the staff show a keen interest in learning about autism and how to teach your child.
Decide which schools you would like to visit and make an appointment with each. It’s better not to take your child on these preliminary visits, as it may be too confusing for them. Visit on a typical school day, not a special ‘open day’.
After your visits, here are some points to consider:
You may also find the Questions to Ask Schools information sheet on the Resources page helpful.
Your child’s early intervention or kindergarten program will help with the transition to school.
Here are some suggestions for things you can do – talk to your child’s therapists about which ones are suitable for your child.
It’s important to be aware of what’s important to your child, and what makes your child anxious. Prepare a daily schedule or timetable to help reduce these anxieties. For example, a colourful chart to show your child that lunchtime, toilet time and home time are part of the school day. This can reduce any anxiety about learning the routine of the school day.
Ask the school to be aware of any particular obsession your child may have and to accommodate it. Include ‘chill out’ time where they can engage in their obsession. Your child needs to know these times (and conditions), so that they will more readily accept the boundaries that the school will impose.
Once you choose a school, you will need to enrol your child.
The school may ask for details of your child’s diagnosis, and it might be useful at this stage to share any assessment reports with the school. This will help them determine whether your child meets the criteria to apply for additional funding to assist the school in supporting their individual learning needs.
If you wish to enrol your child in an autism specific school, special or special developmental school, be sure to ask the school about eligibility, the correct enrolment procedure and the funding application process.
Once the school has enrolled your child, it’s important to ensure that the student has ongoing support.
In government schools, a Student Support Group (SSG) will be formed (previously known as a Program Support Group or PSG) to plan for your child’s program. Parents are members of the SSG and are able to have a supporter or advocate attend meetings with them. If only one parent is able to attend SSG meetings, a supporter or advocate is highly recommended.
The approach taken to applying for individual funding will depend on where your child’s school is located. In most areas, the SSG will complete an Educational Needs Questionnaire and application for individual funding under the Program for Students with Disabilities. However, if your child’s school is located in a local area where the Victorian Government’s Disability Inclusion Reforms are being rolled out, the SSG will develop a Disability Inclusion Profile to identify your child’s strengths and needs, and submit an application for individual funding under the new strengths based disability inclusion process.
Individual funding is not available to all Autistic children. The regional office usually advises schools of the decision just before the end of each school year. In the meantime, the SSG should prepare a school transition program. This should include input from your child’s early intervention program, if applicable.
Please also note that the Program for Students with Disabilities is being phased out from 2021-2025. It will be replaced by the Disability Inclusion process and funding model. You can check the Department of Education website for more information and to find out when this will happen in your area.
In independent and catholic schools, there will be similar support programs for students: ask the school what they provide.
Note: Amaze is not able to provide this type of advocacy support, but we do provide advice on other organisations that can. Call 1300 308 699 for more information.
The bureaucracy involved in school enrolment can be complex. Below are some of the hurdles you might meet:
There are many ways to help your child’s new school learn more about autism and support your child. For example:
It is important to remain positive and try to understand the many demands placed on teachers and schools. A teacher may have previously taught an Autistic student – but while that may be very helpful, it doesn’t mean that they are an expert, as every Autistic person is unique.
It will take time for the school to understand your child. You may find it useful to share a link to Amaze’s Resources page, as many of our information sheets are designed for teachers and teacher’s aides.
If you’d like more information on autism and childhood, please contact the Amaze Autism Connect advisors on 1300 308 699, email [email protected] or use the webchat on this site. This service is open from 8am–7pm, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays).
We also provide a range of information sheets about many aspects of autism – these are updated regularly. Check them out on the Resources page.
Department of Education (2022) Disability Inclusion: increased support for students with disabilities, accessed 9 January 2023. https://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/learningneeds/Pages/disability-inclusion.aspx
Department of Education (2022) Program for Students with Disabilities, accessed 9 January 2023. https://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/learningneeds/Pages/psd.aspx