Cindy is a Year 10 student attending a regional Foundation (‘Prep’) to Year 12 College. Cindy was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (then known as Asperger’s syndrome) in Year 3 after her parents and teachers noticed she appeared highly anxious in some situations at school and in the community, and had increasing difficulties socialising with her peers.
Each term, the school schedules a Student Support Group (SSG) meeting to plan for Cindy’s educational adjustments and to review her progress. Cindy’s needs have changed over the years. At times she requires intensive support and management, and at other times she functions with a high degree of independence.
During Year 5, Cindy’s parents suggested the information about her diagnosis should be shared with her peers and the school community to raise their awareness of Asperger’s syndrome and the challenges it can pose for Cindy at school. This was also an opportunity to share information about Cindy’s abilities with numbers and her recall of numerical facts, an interest area for her.
Currently Cindy is participating in the full Year 10 curriculum at her school. The SSG noted that she requires minimal support in numeracy-based subject areas. In fact, Cindy at times requires extension in this area. However, in most other subject areas, as a result of her disability, Cindy requires a degree of educational adjustment to participate on the same basis as her peers. Some adjustments currently identified in her individual learning plan include:
- access to a laptop for extended writing tasks in literacy-based subject areas
- additional time to complete literacy-based tasks, including assessment tasks
- seating near the front of the classroom to reduce distraction
- access to a locker in the school’s 'learning hub', separate from the large busy locker area
- permission (along with some other students) to listen to her iPod during quiet work time in class
- provision of an individualised, simplified timetable of Cindy’s subjects, along with a simple list of organisational requirements for each subject
- weekly email communication between Cindy’s parents and teachers to ensure homework tasks are properly documented and tracked
- adjustments to the Physical Education curriculum for Cindy, normally by providing her with record keeping, scoring or organising duties
- review of the adjustments in place for Cindy each term by an autism spectrum disorder consultant to ensure the school is adopting the most appropriate autism-friendly strategies to support her needs
- fortnightly ‘checking in’ with Cindy by the college’s welfare officer to gauge her emotional wellbeing and to provide support or consider referral as necessary.
Despite these supports, Cindy still exhibits high anxiety due to the social and sensory demands placed on her in the school setting. The SSG devised a strategy which means that Cindy can withdraw from class and into the student’s ‘learning hub’, to help her cope with her anxiety. Here, Cindy can choose to rest on a bean bag listening to her iPod until she feels prepared to return to class. The Additional Needs Coordinator checks in with her and provides assistance as necessary.
Currently Cindy relies on these adjustments to access education on the same basis as her peers. Her needs are closely monitored with a view to enabling her to complete an accredited senior secondary course.