Autistic children failed by education system
July 18, 2010
Fiona and Georgina Le Roy are moving back to the UK due to poor autism funding in Victoria. Picture: Craig Sillitoe
GEORGINA Le Roy, 11, is mathematically brilliant, but the world around her does not add up.
She has Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). But like many children on the spectrum, she is ineligible to attend one of Victoria’s specialist autism secondary schools because her IQ is within the normal range.
She and her mother Fiona are leaving Melbourne this weekend for the UK, saying Australia does not have the support services they need.
”I’ve only got five more years to educate this child, and I’m worried that if she goes to a mainstream school here she will fall through the system and become delinquent,” said Ms Le Roy, a single parent who moved with Georgina from her native Britain 10 years ago. Both are Australian citizens. ”I’m absolutely dreading moving back … I’ve got no family there, the economy is shot.”
Parent and autism groups say Georgina is among a growing number of students who are not adequately supported in their education by the state government.
Meredith Ward from the Autistic Family Support Association said about half of ASD children were ”high-functioning” but struggled socially, and were ineligible to attend special schools or get assistance at mainstream schools – especially at a secondary level.
”Most of the kids in the mainstream setting don’t receive any support at all – and that is one of the biggest issues for the autism community at the moment,” she said.
The Sunday Age has reported that several parents in this position are suing the government for failing to provide appropriate assistance at school. But Education Department spokesman Nick Higgins said that all students with ASD in Victoria had access to support services and specialists such as psychologists and speech therapists, regardless of their eligibility for a special school.
Ms Le Roy, a solicitor, said she was fortunate she could afford to pay for extra therapy for Georgina at the government primary school she attended, but there were no such options for high school. Georgina will attend an expensive specialist Asperger’s school in the UK.
Half a million Australian families are estimated to be affected by autism. Parents have started a Facebook page to protest against the lack of an autism school for secondary students in Melbourne’s west.