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What to expect weaving through the Education system with a language delayed child.

Living with a child with a speech delay /language delay can be frustrating. But the frustration for me isn’t living with his delay. The frustration is that there are so many people out there who just don’t get it – who don’t listen, who won’t amend what they are doing to accommodate his communication disability.

I don’t think they won’t, they just don’t understand what it’s really like for him. There have a class full of children, they have one or two possibly they need to visualize more for, but they have a curriculum to run, more work?

The system doesn’t accommodate it, as in the education system very well at all in Australia. I have learnt this the hard way. The purpose of this article is to just be mindful of what you can expect, what you are entitled to and that you are your child’s best advocate. Nobody will advocate like you do.

My son started in Prep in a small government school in metro Melbourne. I chose that school as it was small and I felt he wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed – positive.

He is energetic, has a great sense of humour, hardworking and is quite social. I provided them with reports and they did their own language assessments and we started the funding application with his new Primary School (more details on funding options in another article look out for it!).

The funding levels in Victoria cut off at 50 – or 3 standard deviations below. In my sons case his score was 52 so he was the high side of 50 – no funding in a state government primary school. No funding means no paid teacher’s aide. I found out in that year that a Victorian Catholic school he would obtain funding as they only went 2 standard deviations below. We moved house midyear and I looked for a Catholic school in our area. Tick – his application for funding went with enrollment and I knew he would have an aide – a sigh of relief.

I wish it was as easy as that. An Integration Aide or teacher support is just that. So they aren’t a trained teacher but directed by them. I then, and the school agreed, set up that 1 speech session with our private speech pathologist. I brought in our own speech pathologist. The reason being the Catholic Education office albeit they provide a regional Speech pathologist for their schools, they are usually shared across many (14 in our case) and didn’t offer regular fortnighly speech sessions for my child or even possibly ongoing speech at school.
Unfortunately as well if you have an external or private speech pathologist (and in my opinion I’d highly recommend your own) you don’t have access to school speech pathologist. My own speech pathologist coming to school was great and we shared lots of ideas and she was involved in PSG’s.

The norm is to have at least 2 Program Support meetings (PSG’s) and 4 – face to face meetings with support group per term). You can at any time request a meeting with your teacher.

Another additional aide to think about for school is a Communication book/diary between yourself and your child’s teacher. For me personally, as I have worked whilst my son has been at school, our Communications Book (ie. a diary I can write messages to the teacher and they respond daily if required) was the best sense of relief for my anxiety.

My son can’t remember instructions never alone a message to bring home or remember what I have asked him to ask his teacher. So I asked them to write in his book or if there was problem or area of work to focus on at home. Sometimes I would just write what we did on the weekend so if he spoke about it they may have a better chance of following his story.  As the years have rolled on we have progressed to email – much speedier for everyone.

Some children with a speech delay, dependent on other areas of development delay i.e. intellectual will have the ability to gain access to a specialist school. My son has a normal IQ which sits outside being able to attend a Specialist School.

I feel I am working in a system that I have to push and advocate in continuously but it’s been worth it. I seem to provide them with information that does and will assist them in working with my son. He loves his school, I don’t so much but I’m not convinced that moving to the next school will be any better.  And I hope with the information I share with them they will in the future get more resource for Speech kids at school. I hope the learning these teachers are taking away is passed on and more of them possibly can provide alternatives in the classroom for Language delayed kids – so it’s not misread and I don’t see reports with lazy or unmotivated on them.

My son is neither unmotivated or lazy – he just can’t process information like a ‘normal’ child and if the work is delivered in a different form, more visually, explained with him listening to you, looking at you and engaged you will have success.  He is far from unmotivated my son or distracted – he has an auditory processing disorder.

Until the next post.

Sandra :)

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