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CASE STUDY Melanie, Substantial, Cognitive

Year level
Educational setting
Special school

Level of adjustment
Category of disability
Included in data collection

Melanie's story

Melanie is a 17-year-old girl who has been at a special school (a ‘flexi’ or flexible learning centre) completing a flexible learning program for the past three years and is now enrolled at the senior campus.

Melanie was first diagnosed with a severe eating disorder (in the form of bulimia nervosa) when she was 13 years old. Her psychiatrist also identified an emotionally unstable personality disorder and depression. Melanie was first discovered self-harming and she then attempted suicide at the age of 13. Melanie meets regularly with a private psychiatrist and mental health support team outside of school hours.

Melanie is very aware of her eating disorder but has significant challenges and cycles into episodes that result in her purging. For this reason, the school counsellor is in regular contact with Melanie’s mental health team and is readily available to speak with her about her needs, with Melanie accessing support at least twice per week. Her counsellor has had mental health training and all school staff are aware of the outcomes of the risk assessment and have been trained in crisis intervention.

Melanie was diagnosed with dyslexia in primary school. She has an adjusted curriculum program and intervention to assist her to comprehend and write. She will complete a modified education certificate.

Melanie attends school when she is well enough. This year, she was hospitalised and received specialist mental health treatment off and on for a total of three months. While Melanie reports that she is happy to attend class, she is often too unwell to participate. The school provides her with a tailored online literacy and numeracy program when not attending school. Her subject teachers also email her work to be completed at home and in the hospital when she is not at school. At times, teachers reduce the required output if Melanie isn’t well enough to keep up with the pace of the course. On average this has occurred in all her subjects approximately 50 per cent of the time in the 12 months preceding NCCD submission.

Melanie uses text-to-speech and speech-to-text software to support her reading and writing. All worksheets and assignments are simplified to reduce the amount of text Melanie has to read so that task requirements are clear and succinct, with worked examples and scaffolds used in all subjects.

Melanie's English and maths subjects take place in a class of six students, with a teacher and teacher assistant. A learning support teacher visits regularly, attending at least half of all lessons, to support specialist instruction in these classes. Melanie's work can be disorganised, so she requires regular clarification of what she has to do.

The school conducts parent–teacher conferences twice per term to discuss Melanie’s progress and the support required at school.

Information that supports inclusion in the NCCD What's this?

  • Step 1. Is there an adjustment to address disability? Yes

    Yes, adjustments are provided to enable a student with disability to access education on the same basis as other students.

    As defined by the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, Melanie has a disorder or malfunction that results in her learning differently from a person without the disorder or malfunction. She also has a disorder that affects her thought processes, perception of reality, emotions or judgement or that results in disturbed behaviour.

  • Do you have evidence? Yes

    • Curriculum adjustments described in learning programs in all subjects at most times
    • Modified resources and specialist programs to support literacy and numeracy development
    • Use of specialised technology – screen readers and word prediction software, personalised and explicit instruction to support most learning areas
    • Teachers’ notes recording Melanie’s mood, level of participation and support required
    • Risk assessment
    • Documented individualised learning plan entered into the school’s online intranet database.
    • Counsellor summary document showing frequency of support provided to Melanie and confidential case notes
    • Minutes from parent–teacher conferences
    • Letters from medical specialists
    • Diagnostic report from psychologist outlining dyslexia diagnosis
    • Ongoing case notes from case conferences with specialist mental health team at the hospital
    • Adjustments received while attending school meets the minimum 10-week period requirement.
  • Step 2. What is the level of adjustment? Substantial

    • Additional support and individualised instruction in a highly structured manner, including support from a teacher assistant and from a visiting learning support teacher
    • Substantial adjustments to courses to reduce the required output if Melanie isn’t well
    • Assignments and assessments simplified to reduce the amount of text so that task requirements are clear with scaffolds used in all subjects
    • Personalised explicit instruction such as online literacy and numeracy program and lessons emailed to Melanie when she is in hospital or not attending school
    • School counsellor has had mental health training and is readily available to speak with her about her needs with all school staff trained in crisis intervention
    • School counsellor is in regular contact with Melanie’s mental health team
    • Parent–teacher conferences twice per term to discuss Melanie’s progress and the support required at school
  • Step 3. What is the category of disability? Cognitive

    Melanie has an unstable personality disorder and depression and also has a diagnosis of dyslexia. The adjustments being provided most frequently relate to the functional impact of Melanie’s dyslexia, and as such she meets the cognitive category of disability.

  • Step 4. Record and submit the data Yes (Student is included)

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