February 4, 2011
Janine Kepert and son Matthew. Photo: Scott McNaughton
A BOY with autism has been refused enrolment at a special school because the Education Department determined that he knows too many words.
Matthew, 5, missed his first day of prep after the department's western region office rejected his application for Western Autistic School at the Niddrie or Laverton campus.
Although he self-harms and cannot hold a pencil, Matthew was deemed to have scored too well on the entrance test, which was based on language.
His mother, Yarraville resident Janine Kepert, said she felt as though she was being punished for paying for a speech pathologist to help Matthew when he was younger.
Matthew's autism was picked up when he was 18 months old, and he was officially diagnosed when he was two. ''He is prone to violence, prone to harming himself and others, he has poor attention and concentration, and he wanders,'' Ms Kepert said.
''He can't hold a paintbrush or a pencil, or draw. His vocabulary is good, but it's not useful language - it's not pragmatic.''
She has lodged an appeal against the department's decision and is awaiting the outcome.
Ms Kepert said it was important for enrolments and appeals to be finalised before the start of the school year.
''Children with autism, they love structure and routine,'' she said.
''All other parents know well in advance what school their children will be attending.''
Williamstown MP Wade Noonan said he would raise the issue at the first sitting of State Parliament.
He is calling for an urgent review of enrolment processes for prep-aged students who have autism.
''Unfortunately, some parents with prep-aged autistic children are battling their way through a cumbersome and bureaucratic process in order to secure appropriate schooling for their children,'' Mr Noonan said.
Department spokesman Travis Parnaby said students with disabilities were assessed using internationally recognised World Health Organisation definitions.
''The department will continue to work with the family and the local primary school where Matthew is enrolled to ensure that the necessary support is in place from the first day of school,'' he said.
''In addition, the department will continue to provide assistance in the event that enrolment at Western Autistic School is possible.''