Choosing a school for my child by Sandy Russo
Unlike the UK and USA, there are no schools in Australia, public or private, that specialise in the teaching of students with specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia. Some schools are working towards best teaching practices for inclusion of all students in the classroom and around 200 participants (mostly teachers and para professionals) came to our 2012 conference “Counting students in: Planning and programming for students with dyslexia, ADHD & Asperger Syndrome in the mainstream”.
When choosing a school, the relationship between your child and their teacher is very important. So, a key to choosing a school is whether you and your child feel comfortable with the staff you meet and the atmosphere in the classrooms when you visit. Visits may be on an information day/night or in some cases by appointment. Most schools in Adelaide have a website or information portal: a first feel for the school’s ethos can often be garnered by having a look at what they are doing as a community, as well as educationally.
South Australian schools belong to one of three sectors: Department of Education and Children’s Services (DECS), Catholic Education and the Independent Schools
For a state run school:- This link takes you to the DECS website. http://www.decd.sa.gov.au/locs/default.asp?id=32151&navgrp=175 You may apply for entry to any government primary school, however acceptance of an enrolment in an out of zone primary school depends on whether the number of enrolments at that school exceeds the number of places available. High Schools on the other hand are zoned, although you can apply to go to one out of zone. Acceptance will depend on enrolments.
This site allows you to search for independent schools by location, gender, religion, and/or year level.
It takes you to the British Dyslexia Association’s Dyslexia Friendly Schools Pack.
Making a list of the features that you consider most important for your child will help you formulate questions to ask when visiting prospective schools.
When creating a list of questions, you might also draw on:
· recommendations from a psycho-educational assessment (if your child has been formally diagnosed)
· comments in school reports about achievements in areas such as literacy and numeracy
· your own observations of how your child is coping with their school work
· your child’s strengths. How much time is allocated eg to drama, sport, music, art, technical studies etc
Questions you may find useful
· Does your school use a phonic approach to early literacy teaching?
· Will my child receive any one on one or small group support?
· Does your school celebrate individual achievement in a wide range of activities including music, art, drama, sport and achievement of personal academic goals
· Does your school support the use of computers by all students in the classroom? From what year level?
· In what areas do you encourage parental involvement?
There is no ‘one size fits all’ list as each child’s needs are unique. However, it is important to be prepared and the more specifically related to your child your questions are, the better informed you will be.
SPELD SA Services
Where-ever you are, a tutor can help your child by explicitly teaching them skills they have not yet developed to an appropriate level. Importantly, these lessons should be followed up, at home, with 5 to 15 min sessions (based on age and concentration span), five days a week, so that the student has time to practise and consolidate the skills that have been taught.
SPELD SA, Adelaide, has many services that may be useful in supporting the education of your child. We also have a comprehensive website www.speld-sa.org.au that includes a lot of free information, and free resources, that can be accessed worldwide.