Choosing a school
Finding the right school starts with understanding your options and ensuring the school is the right fit for your child.
Some golden rules and considerations when it comes to choosing a school:
Look into the different options available well ahead of time. Many metropolitan areas have “school expos,” where prospective families can consider a wide range of schools. Most schools have web sites and offer school tours on a periodic basis.
Put your name down on the waitlist of every school you are interested in. You never know which one will become available, and it’s good to keep you options open.
Do they want you?
Enrolling your child at school should not be a fight. Choose a school that wants to include your child and your family. It may not be always be smooth sailing, but the school should want to have your child as part of their community.
Make sure you meet the principal and other key players (e.g. the head of learning support), take a tour of the school and get a sense of what the school culture and environment is like.
Choose schools who will value and respect your child, their abilities and their differences.
Consider schools who are willing to welcome parent / professional input when it comes to the best interests of your child.
Be proactive and informed, but still positive and polite. People will always be more responsive if they are respected.
Your child’s rights
Know your child’s rights and where to turn for help We have listed great resources below around this.
The school years are long
School is not for just one year, it's seven years for kinder and primary and another six at high school. The school you start at is not necessarily the school your child will finish at. Sometimes children will begin schooling in a setting that everyone feels is the most appropriate but after a year or two as your child's needs change you may need to make changes to their learning environment.
It can take a number of weeks for a child to settle into a new school setting but by at least the end of the first school term, you should be communicating effectively with your child’s teacher about any behaviours that need to be addressed.
Educators want the best outcomes for your child, almost as much as you do, so be optimistic about what might be possible.
Looking for a primary school
This can be such a challenging time. Many schools are simply not at all welcoming. You may be unsure as to whether a specialist school or a mainstream school will work best.
The Australian Autism Handbook has a great chapter called “Choosing the right school.” We highly recommend reading this before you begin the process.
See the below websites to search for all schools in Australia.
Know your school options
Disclosure of a diagnosis
Some parents are concerned about disclosing their child's diagnosis to their child’s school, especially if it’s a late diagnosis, fearing that their child may be ‘labelled’ and treated differently.
Often these concerns are unfounded as many schools have a lot of experience working with lots of different types of children with different learning styles and needs. Chances are they already know there is a neurodevelopmental challenge of some kind and you will just be confirming something they’re already managing.
It’s beneficial for the school and your child’s teachers to understand their learning profile to identify issues and supports they might need.
If you are still concerned about this it might be appropriate for you to disclose the diagnosis with key staff at the school only. Children in mainstream schools these days often have classmates with disabilities so supporting an open and inclusive environment will likely lead to a better outcome for everybody.