George is an 8-year-old boy diagnosed with Down syndrome and kidney disease. He has attended the same primary school since Foundation (‘Prep’). As George has grown and developed, his medical and educational needs have become more complex. As a result, his ability to engage with his educational program has become increasingly compromised.
Currently George benefits from a highly specialised educational program supported by highly modified curricular materials appropriate for students at younger year levels. Though he spends significant amounts of time engaged in mainstream class activities along with his peers, George also receives frequent instruction in Foundation literacy and numeracy skills from the school’s additional needs teacher. These skills are then practised and consolidated during time spent with education support officers. George requires additional supervision in unstructured activities, such as during recess and lunch, to ensure he participates safely and can practise positive social behaviours.
George’s parents have always worked closely with the school to plan for his
transition and develop his educational plan and adjustments. George’s school also receives consultation from a Student Support Services speech pathologist, to develop his communication abilities, and regular advice from Down Syndrome Victoria’s Inclusion Support Service.
George’s kidney disease has recently progressed, and he now requires surgery to his bladder that will result in him urinating via a catheter. He will be required to do this for a period of six weeks before surgery and permanently following the surgery. Catheterisation will commence in approximately four weeks. This will present a significant behavioural and learning challenge for George. He will be absent from school for a significant period of time and will be supported via the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) Education Institute while an inpatient there.
After receiving news of the need for surgery, George’s parents requested an urgent Student Support Group meeting to prepare and plan for the subsequent impact on his access to and participation in education. The Principal, Additional Needs Coordinator, classroom teacher, support officer and parents attended the meeting.
The family provided the latest paediatric kidney specialist (nephrologist) report for the school. It was determined that the following actions needed to occur:
- update George’s personal care medical advice form with the input of his medical specialists to reflect his changing continence care needs
- apply to have key school staff undertake competency training in catheter management via the (Victorian) Department of Education and Training’s School care Program
- refer George to the regional visiting teacher service to assist with planning educational supports for the period he will be absent from school
- liaise with the RCH Education Institute to ensure smooth transition for George back to school
- review George’s educational program for the coming 10 weeks to consider which course materials and goals may need to be modified to ensure he can continue to have access, and progress against the goals established for him.
George is a young boy with significant needs associated with his disability. These needs present significant barriers to his access to and participation in many aspects of his education. They represent a range of academic, social–emotional and personal care differences to be addressed by the school in implementing adjustments to his educational program.