Individualised needs of autistic students recognised

4 November 2018 – Altogether Autism is delighted with the announcement from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today to invest in 600 dedicated school staff to support students with complex learning needs.

The recognition of the individualised needs of autistic students is evident, said national manager Catherine Trezona.

“The commitment to primary and secondary school age students is particularly timely as our students often miss out on early childhood interventions if they are not diagonised their pre school years.

“This is particularly important for girls who are typically not diagnosed until their teens.

“It’s good to see neurodiversity and children with moderate needs (not just high needs) are in scope,” said Ms Trezona.

“The fact these are specialist full time roles is crucial.”

The Government and Minister Tracey Martin had listened and responded to parents, whanau and teachers.

“I’m cautiously optimistic a specialised role will help address concerns at the primary and secondary level because the current education system is currently failing the majority of families with autistic children.

“We’ve got so many instances of children that have been stood down because there’s not the capacity or the capability to work with them effectively in the school. So that’s not inclusive education. Really our autistic students are not being at all well looked after in the current education system.”

Some students were being expelled and then being enrolled at other schools where they could only attend for a reduced number of hours due to a lack of teacher aide support, she said.

Ms Trezona said the organisation was keen to be involved in the training of the teachers to make sure they had the skills to address the really complex learning needs of autistic children.

“Altogether Autism offers our specialist professional development for the registered teachers who will be appointed to these new roles.

“We remain committed to working with the Ministry of Education to ensure autistic students are given every chance to reach their potential,” she said.