Disabled kids ‘lack help’

THE state government is making life harder for children with learning difficulties, an advocate for youth education says.
Nanjing Night Net

Kerrie Bradburn, president of the recently formed Support and Opportunities for Learning Difficulties (SOLD) in Sunbury, said too many children were missing out on the help they desperately needed.

She said that under strict government criteria, only 1 per cent of disabled students received funding for language disorders.

“I’ve been personally told that by an education department person,” Ms Bradburn said.

“There obviously has to be a cut-off point, but I’d like to see the government widen the criteria. We should be throwing more money at our children’s education, not less.

“A large percentage of children with a learning disability end up in the justice system; we need to be spending money on intervention earlier in their lives.”

Ms Bradburn, a mother of two children with learning disabilities, admitted the new national school curriculum was a step in the right direction.

“It does have more of a lean toward phonemic awareness, the ability to say names and sounds of letters, then blended sounds like ‘ch’, ‘ing’, which is what children with a learning disability need.”

Ms Bradbury said statistics on the National Year of Reading website, supported by the federal government, showed 46 per cent of the Australian population could not read adequately.

“From a schoolchildren perspective, it equates to between one and three students for every classroom that has a learning disability,” she said.

“This disability may be anything from dyslexia, ADHD or autism.

“These disabilities are lifelong and require a significant amount of dedication from parents, educators and the individual to establish strategies which enable learning to occur.

”Unfortunately, the education system does not necessarily allow for these modifications to be made to the curriculum to allow these children to have the opportunity to be the best that they can be.”

However, James Martin, a spokesman for Education Minister Martin Dixon, said the government was spending $712.9 million in this year’s budget to support students with disabilities, a $44.5 million increase on the previous year.

“The 2012-13 budget has factored in an extra $23.4 million for the next 12 months for the Program for Students with Disabilities,” he said.

Government statistics show the number of children with a severe language disorder receiving help increased from 202 to 268 between 2006 and 2012.

SOLD, comprising parents, tutors and teachers from across Hume, provides parents and carers of disabled children with information, education, support, friendship and advocacy.

It will hold its official launch at Killara Primary School in Sunbury from 7.30pm this Friday.