November 20, 2010
Illustration: Ron Tandberg
FOR the past year we have been fighting for funding for our six-year-old son Isaac, who has autism. At school, Isaac’s days revolve around trips to ”time out”, visits to the assistant principal and constant reminders about appropriate behaviour. When he is unsure what to do, he rolls on the floor and may or may not scream. He has harmed himself and others as he fails to calm his own anxiety. Despite this, Isaac is a loving child and craves socialisation.
It has become abundantly clear that the government’s policy towards autism is about saving money, not helping affected families. Last year the Victorian Department of Education changed the eligibility criteria for funding applications in the category of autism – without notifying families or schools.
Isaac desperately needs a full-time aide, but without funding he has only been going to school five half-days a week.
We formally appealed after our first application was rejected, but were rejected again. We reapplied under a ”severe behaviour disorders” diagnosis, to which the department responded more favourably. They have told us they will back-pay the school to the date of the original application in acknowledgement of his need, but then added that we are no longer eligible as our initial assessments are out of date. While we have Isaac reassessed, his condition continues to deteriorate and the quality of his education is further compromised.
Hannah Belfrage, Tyabb