Review sought for special needs kids

DISABILITY advocates are calling for a review of the state school system among claims that it is failing Tasmanian children with special needs.

The Tasmanian Disability Education Reform Lobby will meet  Education Minister Nick McKim on Thursday and  formally request a review.

The lobby group's Kris Desmond said the findings of a survey, carried out with 81 students who have a disability and 71 families, would also be handed to Mr McKim.

``What we're finding is that students with disabilities, autism in particular, in the last 12 months are getting less support then they were,'' she said.

``We want a review of the system because if it needs to be structurally changed we must stop  and look at what is actually working (now) and what isn't so that no matter how much funding there is, the system is ready to use that in the best way possible.''

In the North there are 282 full-time equivalent students on the Severe Disability Register, in the North-West 182.1 FTE   and in the south  397.1.

Of all those, 216 students have autism spectrum disorder.

The department does not know how many state school students overall have autism, as it doesn't ask.

Opposition education spokesman Michael Ferguson said the absence of such data made it difficult to assess whether services were adequate.

``How can parents of children with a disability have any faith in Mr  McKim when he doesn't even know how many children in our schools are on the autism spectrum?'' Mr  Ferguson asked.

``Parents are constantly telling me that there aren't enough resources for children with high and additional needs . . .   I would support a review into how our school system caters to students with a disability.''

The Education Department employs two full-time and eight part-time autism consultants.

However, Action for Tasmanian Kids With Autism secretary Roger Law said  they were only required to be qualified and registered teachers.

``The biggest problem of all is they aren't required to have any knowledge of autism to become an autism consultant,'' Mr Law said. ``We have absolutely no faith in the education system at the moment.''

His group is vowing to put the issue ``front and centre'' at the next state election.


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