Under the Disability Standards for Education 2005 This link will open in a new window, education providers must consult with the student or their parent, guardian, carer or other associate before making a reasonable adjustment. Other people, such as specialists, health professionals and advocates, may be consulted too. All participants share information about the student’s needs and consider the best way to meet them while balancing the needs of others. Consultations allow everyone to explore possible solutions; they are not held simply to rubber stamp a decision that has already been made
It is good practice for consultations about reasonable adjustments to consider the following questions.
Are the adjustments necessary?
Will the adjustments enable the student to enrol, participate, or access services on the same basis as other students?
Do the adjustments respond to the student’s needs, abilities and interests?
Is further advice required?
Do the adjustments balance the interests of all parties?
Are there other adjustments that would be as beneficial for the student but less disruptive or intrusive for others?
When will the impact of the adjustments be reviewed?
It is advisable to review reasonable adjustments regularly as students' needs change over time.
Consultation: In practice
Was it a good consultation? There are many ways to conduct a consultation to determine a reasonable adjustment for a student with disability. A good consultation usually has four characteristics:
A genuine discussion is held about the best interests of the student and what is needed to maximise their participation in learning. Older students should be involved as appropriate.
Different views are heard and acknowledged without interruption, criticism or judgement.
Information and perspectives are shared by all participants.
Every participant knows what will happen next and who will do it. This could be a decision that the school will implement an adjustment or that the teacher will seek further advice before deciding on an adjustment.
Sport for Tim
Tim is in Year 8 and tells his parents he doesn’t like watching sports matches with the school because it is cold and boring. Tim uses a wheelchair for mobility.
Tim’s father makes a time to meet with the school to discuss a reasonable adjustment. Tim’s teacher and the head of sport are invited to the meeting. Tim is invited to the meeting, but decides not to attend.
At the meeting, Tim’s father proposes that Tim be allowed to go to the library instead of watching sport. Tim’s teacher says it is important for all students to support the school teams as either players or supporters, and that if Tim went to the library he would not be participating on the same basis as other students. Tim’s mother points out that for Tim it is different because he never gets to play in a sports team. She thinks Tim finds it boring because he is always on the sidelines. His father says, ‘As he never gets to play, it’s not fair to make him go’.
The head of sport offers to investigate options for expanding the range of sports so that Tim can participate in a team sport. Everyone contributes ideas about alternative sports, such as wheelchair rugby, table tennis and chess. The head of sport promises to investigate these options before the next meeting.
At the next meeting, the head of sport says that the school will trial a table tennis team in which all students will be invited to participate, including Tim. Extra space is provided for one table so that Tim can manoeuvre his wheelchair. Tim’s parents agree that this is a good idea and ask when the impact of the adjustment will be reviewed. The head of sport proposes that they meet again in a month’s time to discuss the impact of the table tennis adjustment.
Nathan’s parents met with his teacher to discuss how 6-year-old Nathan could be supported to sit still for group learning.
The teacher explained that Nathan had difficulty sitting cross-legged on the floor with the other students because he needed to move constantly. She said that sitting on the floor for group learning was a big part of primary school life, not just in class, but also in school assemblies and concerts. His parents explained that Nathan found it hard to sit still in many situations, due to sensory issues, and that being close to other children made it more challenging for him.
The teacher suggested adjustments that she thought might assist Nathan to sit quietly, such as a squeeze ball for his hands or a bean bag. Nathan’s parents explained that Nathan had a unique chair at home – ‘Nathan’s chair’ – which was a signal to him he had to sit still. It worked quite well for limited periods of time.
Nathan’s teacher wondered if a chair would be feasible for Nathan when other students were sitting on the floor, and if it would separate him too much from the group.
After more discussion they agreed that the teacher would introduce a floor-time chair for Nathan during floor-time and position it as close as possible to the children sitting on the floor, but at the side.
The teacher said she would monitor the impact of the adjustment and asked Nathan’s parents how they would like to be kept informed, and they agreed email was best.
The teacher emailed Nathan’s parents a week later to report that the floor-time chair was working well in supporting their son to sit still and engage in group activities, and that all the teachers now knew that Nathan needed his chair for floor-time and in school assemblies. She also said that a teacher had offered to trim the legs of the chair over time, so that Nathan would gradually be brought closer to the floor. If they had no objections, she intended to implement this further adjustment.
By the end of the year, Nathan’s chair, now just 2 cm high, was still present for floor-time and school assemblies, but rarely used. Nathan usually sat cross-legged on the floor with his classmates, but his floor-time chair remained nearby, in case he needed it.
What is a consultation?
Participants in a consultation aim to reach agreement on reasonable adjustments. A consultation consists of:
lively debate and exchange of different views and perspectives
information-sharing that draws on the knowledge and experience of every participant
working together to deliver solutions that balance the interest of all parties.