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CASE STUDY Tristan, Extensive, Cognitive

Year level
Educational setting
Mainstream school

Level of adjustment
Category of disability
Included in data collection

Tristan's story

Tristan is a 16-year-old boy with a diagnosis of intellectual disability with autism. Tristan attends a mainstream secondary school in a large regional city, but accesses some specialised programs at the onsite Education Support Centre.

Tristan is non-verbal and typically communicates his needs using gestures, some basic signing and visual–pictorial communication systems. He enjoys attending school but does find it difficult to manage his sensory issues and requires significant supervision and assistance to recognise when he needs to take a break from an activity, communicate his feelings or make a request for assistance. His current individual education plan (IEP) and behaviour management plan (BMP) are focused on learning-to-learn behaviours, functional skills in the community and transition to community-based activities over the next three years. His functional program centres on self-care, hygiene, communication and personal safety. Tristan requires full adult assistance for all aspects of his program.

Key learning outcomes for Tristan include:

  • daily routines such as help to unpack his school bag on arrival and pack it on departure
  • tolerate touch/speech cues used in the routines for greeting, meal time, toileting and home time
  • relation of concrete objects to a particular classroom activity such as nappy  toilet; or bowl and spoon  cooking.

Key communication outcomes for Tristan include demonstrating one or more of the following when interacting in one-to-one situations where the communication partner is positioned within 30 cm and these are then copied/commented on by the communication partner:

  • moves head/eyes/arms/legs or mouth while interacting
  • makes facial changes and shows pleasure with interaction
  • makes vocalisations of different volumes and tones.

Tristan requires extensive support to manage his behavioural responses to sensory stimuli. He will not always act predictably to any given sensory input. and therefore regular functional behaviour analysis is performed with all staff across both sites to re-evaluate his engagement with all aspects of his environment across all settings (school, community and home). This is to ensure that Tristan is provided with a consistent set of responses and strategies that support his changing behaviour needs.

Tristan has as one of his goals increasing his engagement with the disability service provider in his community, as chosen by his family. This requires cross-training between disability service provider staff and school staff to ensure that there is consistent and detailed understanding of Tristan’s individual program. Shared professional learning, planning and collaborative case meetings occur monthly to ensure a highly individualised transition program for Tristan.

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, Tristan has a disorder or malfunction that results in him learning differently from a person without the disorder.
  • Do you have evidence? Yes

    • Reports from medical professionals
    • Individual education plan
    • Behaviour management plan
    • Notes from the disability service provider
    • Staff training plans/timetables
    • Notes on meetings with parents and staff
  • Step 2. What is the level of adjustment? Extensive

    • Tristan requires individual adult assistance for all aspects of his program, all of the time, in order to implement explicit targeted adjustments that are individualised and comprehensive. 
    • Full-time support is given to achieve communication outcomes, functional self-awareness and personal hygiene and feeding.
  • Step 3. What is the category of disability? Cognitive

    • Tristan has a cognitive disability.
    • Tristan’s disability has cognitive, social/emotional and sensory aspects.
    • If a student has multiple disabilities, the school team, with the support of specialist advice, will select whichever disability category has the greatest impact, based on their informed professional judgement, on the student’s education and is the main driver of adjustments to support their access and participation.
    • The category of disability, therefore, is cognitive as the intellectual disability has been deemed to have the most impact.
  • Step 4. Record and submit the data Yes (Student is included)

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