Frank is a 15-year-old boy who has attended the same secondary school since the start of Year 8. He is now in Year 10. Frank has a diagnosis of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. As he has aged, his muscle strength in his upper arms and legs has deteriorated. Frank’s emotional needs have become more complex as he has been diagnosed with both anxiety and depression, attributed to his deteriorating physical condition. Frank’s ability to demonstrate his understanding of the curriculum is reduced because of significant gaps in his education due to ill health. Further, Frank has a learning disability that impacts his short-term (working) memory and his planning and reading skills, and he is provided with significant curriculum support. Recently his specialist medical team advised that he should limit handwriting and make greater use of a keyboard and other assistive technologies.
Frank has recently moved from a manual wheelchair that he was able to self-propel for periods of the school day, to a powered wheelchair. This new wheelchair is larger, relies on battery power and is wider and heavier than his manual chair, making access to some areas of the school more difficult. His personal care needs have also increased. Frank is no longer able to self-transfer from his wheelchair to a chair at a table or when using the universal access toilet and requires additional staffing support to assist. Frank becomes physically fatigued more quickly and has shortness of breath. Frank has disclosed to an adult working with him that he is feeling very low and is concerned that he is becoming a burden to his family.
It was predicted that Frank’s physical and emotional circumstances would deteriorate, and rapid changes in recent weeks have been observed. Therefore, the school-based support team, the school’s consulting teacher for disability, Frank’s foster parents and Frank have decided to bring forward their regular term-by-term case conference to consider additional support services, review Frank’s individual education plan (IEP) and decide whether there need to be any minor works modifications at the school.
In preparation for the meeting, the school’s Learning Support Coordinator (LSC) asked all of Frank’s teachers to provide reports regarding his progress. The LSC also scheduled a pre-meeting with the consulting teacher from the regional education assistive technology team to investigate using tablets and voice-activated technology to assist Frank to access the curriculum with reduced reliance on use of his arms and hands. The results of this meeting will be reported at the case conference.
The school psychologist, who has been working with Frank’s hospital clinical psychologist, asked for a separate case conference with Frank and his foster parents to discuss Frank’s emotional wellbeing and to make some shared school and home support decisions. Frank will discuss what aspects of this meeting he is comfortable sharing at the case conference if he decides to attend.
At the case conference, the school’s consulting teacher will discuss additional training that staff may need to support Frank with the assistive technologies, the design of teaching and learning activities, and any other new equipment available to assist Frank. This will include installing a hoist in the universal access toilet and supervision around the use of the automated wheelchair. It is likely the school will need to make additional minor modifications to school facilities and the grounds to ensure Frank has access to all aspects of the school.
The LSC also investigated providing Frank with access to the upper school students’ common room to rest when he is becoming fatigued through the school day. These options will be considered by Frank and his foster parents during a regular student support meeting.
The LSC and the school psychologist have discussed providing a range of support services to staff and students who are concerned about Frank and may be distressed by his sudden deterioration.
Frank and his carers attended the case conference, and as a result:
- Frank will have adjustments provided using tablet technology, for which he will require an initial assessment by an occupational therapist
- teachers and education assistants working with Frank will be provided with training in the use of assistive technologies as required
- to minimise fatigue throughout the day, Frank requested some environmental adjustments, including the timetabling of all classes on ground floor accessible rooms (where possible, the same room), his locker relocated to the classroom he uses most frequently, additional time to travel between classes, learning materials and homework to be emailed, and increased access to social opportunities during lunch breaks
- minor works will be provided to install a hoist in the universal access toilet, and training provided about how to use it safely, and a maintenance schedule developed
- the occupational therapist will also be requested to undertake an assessment of Frank’s access across the school environment to determine whether further capital grant application is required
- education assistants will be provided with training in the safe operation of powered wheelchairs
- the school psychologist will continue to liaise with Frank and his clinical psychologist regarding appropriate and timely information to provide to Frank’s school friends and staff, ongoing emotional/psychological support for Frank and his family, and counselling for Frank’s peers if required
- the LSC will ensure that all staff have access to the department’s Employee Assistance program.
- the LSC will commence conversations with Frank, his family and his teachers, as well as the necessary documentation, to allow Frank to complete Year 11 and 12 over three years
- Frank’s Health and Physical Education teacher will source advice from SportsAus on how to make physical activities more inclusive.
Another case conference is scheduled to be held in 8 weeks to discuss Frank’s progress and make adjustments to his current access and IEP if necessary.