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Case Study for the standards Frank’s story

Case details
Year level
Educational setting
Mainstream school

Frank's story

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.



  • Planning has commenced to enable Frank to complete Year 11 and 12 over three years to manage fatigue and learning.


  • The school sourced an environmental assessment, conducted by Frank’s NDIS-funded occupational therapist and with the permission of Frank and his family, identified inaccessible locations and then submitted a capital grant funding application to make building modifications to align with the Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010.
  • At Frank’s request, all his core classes were timetabled to accessible ground floor classrooms and, where possible, in the same room, with the teachers moving rather than Frank. This room was located closest to the specialist science lab and the school canteen to reduce movement around the school. The oval is on the other side of the school, so for practical Health and Physical Education lessons (and at other times where Frank needs to travel longer distances between lessons), Frank is allowed to leave the class 5 minutes early (while other students are recording homework). His teachers ensure any homework for that lesson is emailed to Frank, and the additional travel time allows Frank to safely navigate across school while other students are still indoors.
  • At Frank’s request, his locker was moved to his main classroom, and materials needed for each subject stored in colour-coded bags. With Frank’s permission, these items are collected by the teacher assistant at the start of each lesson to minimise physical output.
  • The school purchased a range of social board games for students to use at lunch in the library. Frank joins these when his fatigue levels permit.


  • Frank’s teachers received professional development from the LSC on curriculum adjustments, how to break their lessons into smaller components to accommodate Frank’s fatigue, how to embed assistive technologies into their instructional design, and how to support Frank in his social connections by increased opportunities in class for peer engagement.
  • Teacher PowerPoint presentations are shared with all students, and Frank can view these on his tablet, reducing note-taking requirements.
  • Frank meets with the LSC weekly to plan assessment tasks, and due dates are negotiated based upon Frank’s physical health.
  • For HPE, Frank’s teacher has incorporated inclusive games/activities recommended by SportAus. 

Support services

  • The LSC provided Frank with some individualised assistance in setting up his assistive technologies, and voice activated software.
  • Training was provided to Frank’s teacher assistants to move away from Frank during group activities so that he can engage with his peers. Also, reminders were provided to teacher assistants to only provide assistance when requested by Frank, to allow him independence during lessons.
  • The school psychologist has increased to fortnightly liaison sessions with Frank’s clinical psychologist, and the school has helped Frank’s foster carers by linking them to a local agency that provides family counselling services and specialises in working with foster families.
  • The school purchased a battery charger for Frank’s wheelchair in case he forgets to charge it overnight, and Frank’s teacher assistant checks the battery level each morning. 
  • Frank’s carers keep the school informed of any upcoming appointments or periods of illness and work is emailed to Frank. However, Frank is only expected to complete this work if physically capable.
  • Frank was consulted about which teacher assistants he would prefer to assist him during toileting.
  • A hoist is on order, and training has been provided to the teacher assistants who assist with manual handling during toileting.

Harassment and victimisation

  • Frank is provided adjustments for learning including seating near classroom exits, leaving class early, and using a tablet for writing. This has led to some comments by peers, questioning fairness. Frank’s teachers have included discussions in class about equality versus equity.
  • Frank was part of discussions about awareness raising in the school but was not supportive of suggestions such as a fund-raising day for Muscular Dystrophy Australia or a guest speaker to present at assembly. Instead, Frank’s English teacher suggested next term that the Year 10 English classes watch a segment of the video Darius goes west and then present a proposal to be judged by Frank on how to ‘pimp his ride’. Frank has requested some time to consider this idea.

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