Autism school study 'the right step'

BY MONIQUE EBRINGTON — 28 Sep, 2010 12:00 AM
WESTERN suburbs parents have welcomed state government funding for a feasibility study for an autistic school catering for prep to year 12 students.

At present, Western Autistic School has campuses in Deer Park and Niddrie, but children can attend for only four years before going into mainstream or special schools.

Altona North resident Mark Websdale said a recent meeting with Education Minister Bronwyn Pike was a step towards a new school.

Mr Websdale is a member of Autism Schools Action, a group of parents in the western suburbs who have been lobbying MPs on the issue for several years.

"We have been quite frustrated over a long period of time to get no apparent result," Mr Websdale said.

"We had a meeting with Bronwyn Pike, however, and returned with the unexpected and delightful news that they are going to fund a review into the provision of autism education in the western region.

"It's not a school, but it's probably the best result we could have got."

Mr Websdale's two children have autism and are attending a special school in the west. He said with both children approaching secondary school age, he was concerned about their future education.

Albion resident Graeme Pippett is also worried about options for his son Andrew, 9. Andrew is in his final year at Western Autistic School and his parents have applied for him to attend a special school next year.

In June, Mr Pippett expressed fears his son could regress in a special school environment. "When he was four, he could hardly speak at all and in the past 12 months he has really improved ... we have heard good things about the special school, but they are multi-disability and with autistic children it is really hard to know how they will adjust or cope."

Last week, Mr Pippett said he, like many parents in the region, wanted to see more options for autistic children.

"My stance is for all autistic children, not just my son."

Ms Pike said the independent inquiry was expected to begin next month and take about six months to complete.


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