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(New Zealand) Autistic kids let down by government; reforms promised

Dec 9, 2022, News Hub: Autistic children being let down by Government funding scheme criteria - expert https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2022/12/autistic-children-being-let-down-by-government-funding-scheme-criteria-expert.html

An expert says autistic children have been unable to get the educational support from the Government they need due to a "challenging" criteria for funding.

Without funding, many autistic children face challenges during their schooling years including being three times more likely than non-autistic children to be suspended.

However, more support could be on the way after the Ministry of Education recently announced a new model to better support students with the highest needs.

The Ministry confirmed to Newshub they are looking for ways to streamline the existing model, including the application processes for funds such as ORS. …

The Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) provides support for students with the highest ongoing levels of need for specialist support, the Ministry of Education said. The scheme enables students to attend school and participate alongside other students.

However, Autism New Zealand CEO Dane Dougan told Melissa Chan-Green on AM the process of getting ORS funding is challenging.

"Because they can be really good at one part of the test and not very good at other parts of the particular test or assessment it means they don't get the funding which isn't right," Dougan said….

Ministry of Education data obtained by Stuff showed over one-third of students who apply for ORS funding are rejected each year. However, an expert noted many additional children who need funding will not have applied.

Access to ORS funding can have a significant positive impact on autistic children's education. Dougan said autistic students are three times more likely to be suspended than non-autistic children, however, with ORS funding they have the same likelihood as any student….

Last month, Newshub spoke to a mum whose autistic child was temporarily suspended from attending his primary school in the Manawatū-Whanganui region due to insufficient fencing at the school - despite the school being aware of the child's arrival for months. A parent has also shared how she had to beg for funding after he child was, once again, stood down because the school did not have the resources or training to manage his social and emotional needs. A September report from the Government agency Education Review Office found disabled learners are often facing exclusion from education, with one in five parents having been discouraged from enrolling their disabled child at a local school.

"Disabled children have the same rights to enrol and receive a good education as other learners and we know that a quality education can change their lives. But disabled learners are being let down time and time again," the report said.

Dougan said Autism NZ is working with the Ministry to try and create a better process for the autistic community and the Ministry is looking to make changes.

The Ministry of Education announced in November the Highest Needs Review Change Programme which aims to ensure children and young people with the highest needs for learning support achieve their full potential through positive education outcomes.

"This proposed new approach will give students and whānau greater choice and control, through partnering with the early learning centre or school and the Ministry’s front-line Te Mahau, on what support they need, and what works best," Ministry of Education Operations and Integration leader Sean Teddy told Newshub.

Teddy said the Ministry will work alongside Whaikaha to design and develop proposals for implementing changes, and report back to the Government mid-next year.

"In the meantime, we are looking for ways to streamline the existing model, including the application processes for funds such as ORS," he said.

"Teaching staff will also be supported to take up professional learning and development to further develop their skills and confidence in working with children with high needs."

"Because they can be really good at one part of the test and not very good at other parts of the particular test or assessment it means they don't get the funding which isn't right." Photo credit: AM

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