Ashleigh was feeling hopeful when her son, Jacob entered Year 2 at a new school. Jacob has a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Ashleigh spent hours researching and seeking recommendations to find a school that would give Jacob the right support to help him thrive in and out of the classroom.

At the start of Jacob’s first semester, Ashleigh met with his teacher to discuss his support needs and development of an Individualised Education Plan (IEP). This was the first time Ashleigh attended an IEP meeting and was worried about how to articulate Jacob’s needs at school.

The IEP that Ashleigh received following the meeting, outlined Jacob’s need for sensory toys and aids, access to breakout spaces, visual aids for teaching, and behavioural management strategies. However, Ashleigh still felt the IEP offered insufficient support for her son, as he would not be receiving support from an Education Assistant (EA), and his social and communication needs were not addressed.

I was disappointed and frustrated that the IEP only addressed some of Jacob’s needs rather than seeing him as a whole person.

When Ashleigh brought up these concerns with the school, they were dismissed. She felt pressured into accepting the IEP and told she would have the chance to reassess it during the next semester.

As the weeks progressed, Ashleigh could see that Jacob was struggling at school and presenting challenging behaviours including outbursts. Jacob would regularly be sent out of the classroom by his teacher, meaning that he was missing out on valuable lessons and isolated from his peers. Jacob would come home extremely dysregulated.

It became a challenge for Ashleigh to get Jacob ready for school each morning as he started showing signs of school refusal. He would plead or beg Ashleigh to let him stay home or tell her he was feeling too ill to attend. Ashleigh was feeling conflicted,  if sending him to a school where he was struggling, would outweigh the loss of missing out on lessons.  However, as a single mum with no family around to help, she needed Jacob to go to school, so she could work.

Ashleigh decided to reach out to the school once again, this time to the principal and the Education Support Coordinator. She was told the earliest meeting available would be in two weeks.

Feeling overwhelmed, Ashleigh turned to the Kiind Peer Navigation team for support, who in turn connected Ashleigh with a disability advocate who specialises in education.

The disability advocate helped guide Ashleigh through the correct processes and explained Jacob’s rights at school. Together they planned for a meeting with Jacob’s principal and teacher. Ashleigh’s advocate also attended this with her to provide support.

I was grateful to receive support from an advocate who helped me present my concerns, not as a complaint but as an opportunity to achieve a better outcome for my son and others like him.

Jacob’s IEP was amended to include hours with an EA to support Jacob both in the classroom and in the playground and encourage him to engage in more school activities with his fellow classmates.

While Ashleigh is pleased with this outcome for Jacob, she acknowledges that his journey at school is only just beginning. However, if another issue does arise, she feels empowered with new knowledge to stand up for her son once again.

If your child is experiencing issues at school, book a Pathway session with one of our Peer Navigation team, or see our list of useful organisations to find a disability advocate.

Do you have a similar experience to Ashleigh’s that you would like to share? Add your voice to others and help us create a more accessible, equitable and inclusive society for our children. Submit your experience here.

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