People with disabilities are more likely than other Victorians to be in prison and to be victims of crime. Recent justice enquiries have highlighted the disparity and urged ways to address them. How can we turn these recommendations into positive action? Julie Phillips discusses why this shameful situation persists when we know what the answers are.
Tuesday 5th August, 2014: 1:30am - 2:30am
Julie Phillips, Manager, Disability discrimination Legal Service
Julie Phillips has been working in the disability sector for over 20 years. As a Community Worker for the Victorian Deaf Society, Julie began advocating for members of the Deaf Community and supporting their rights to equal access in 1989 and continues that involvement to date. Currently, Julie is Manager of the Disability Discrimination Legal … ContinuedPhoto of Julie Phillips, Manager, Disability discrimination Legal Service
People with disabilities are more likely than other Victorians to be in prison and to be victims of crime. How can we turn the recommendations from recent justice inquiries into positive action? How can we influence government policy and put an end to this shameful situation? Julie Phillips from the Disability Discrimination Legal Service (DDLS) discusses why the problems continue when we know what the answers are.
- slideshow presentation
- Audio podcast:
We have got Julie Phillips here from the Disability Discrimination Legal Service to provide us with some information in relation to people with disabilities and their interaction with the justice system.
Julie has over 20 years experience in the community sector, and for anyone that knows her they know the passion that she has. She has a keen interest in disability and is very interested in the issues facing people with disabilities. She is a CEO of the Disability Discrimination Legal Services, she is a colleague of mine and sits on the Disability Advocacy Victoria board and i’m pleased to welcome her here today to the conference. I hope you enjoy this session.
Thanks everyone. I wish I were the CEO that sounds so much better than Manager doesn’t it. Thank you Melanie.
I’ve got some slides. I haven’t timed them. I hope we all finish in time, but I like to ask people that if they have a question, particularly if they’re not quite sure what I’m saying that you might want to interrupt or put your hand up then and there because by the time we get to the end, which is 15 minutes away, you might forget what you wanted to say. We have someone with a microphone, if you have a question put up your hand and we will make sure the microphone gets to you.
My presentation is on people with disability and their involvement with the criminal justice system. Do we have anyone with a hearing loss here that needs more assistance, anyone that needs to move down the front to get closer? I have hard copies and the font is quite large.
I am not an expert in the area but there is so much research around. If you Google some of this stuff there is so much research it’s hard to decide which bits to adopt. I just wanted to say that so if you’re going to ask me about some of the research I put up here there is no way I will be able to answer you probably.
The first question is is there a link between having a disability and being involved in the criminal justice system and unfortunately, there is. It’s not because there is an inherent part of a disability that makes someone be a criminal. If you look in the DSM 5, you won’t find criminality as a symptom of any disability. So what is it? I guess we’re here to talk about what is it, what are these links?
I’ve done exactly the opposite of what I was told to do with my PowerPoints, which was to have only a few words on each one, but I want to quote other people. Here is a quote from some research which says what is known is that those with disability particularly mental disorders are over represented within the criminal justice system and rates of mental health issues are at least three times higher for those who enter the criminal justice system prior to adulthood than those of the general population.
I was also told to use simple English and when quoting research that’s impossible. If I can’t be understood, please interrupt me as well.
Here is some more research. Individuals with ASD, which are autism spectrum disorders, are seven times more likely to experience contact with the criminal justice sector than the general population. That’s from a paper called the Prevalence of Treatment of People with Aspurgus Syndrome in the Criminal Justice System. Obviously, I’m just picking out the odd sentence. They’re all very interesting papers.
Now we’ll look at perhaps language disorder. This paper presents evidence from Australia and overseas that demonstrates that high proportions, some 50% in Australian studies of young offenders have a clinically significant but previously undetected oral language disorder. A lot of the research I’m talking about isn’t particularly Australian because we don’t spit it out as much as other countries do. This particular one is and it’s from the paper Youth Injustice Oral Language Competence in Early Life.
Then we move on to ADHD. Studies show that at least 25% of prisoners in the US have ADHD. The recidivism rate, which means going back into jail after you’ve already committed a crime once amongst all felons are high and an estimated 2/3rds are rearrested within about 3 years. These statistics have important implications for society at large.
So far, after just picking just a few of the hundreds of papers on this topic we’ve got a link between a certain cohort of disabilities in criminal justice. So mental health problems, which is really broad, cognitive disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, language disorder and ADHD. I’m guessing that the autism spectrum disorder link is probably towards the higher end of autism spectrum disorder.
It’s interesting without me looking into other specific disabilities these things just popped up very quickly and immediately. I guess one of the questions is what is the connection and are there commonalities between the disabilities that we just had on the slide that make this involvement in the criminal justice system more common?
One of the big connectors is illiteracy, not being able to read and write. Several studies have shown crime and education inextricably ties together and factors like level of achievement in school, student grade retention, school attendance and graduation rates are related to criminal activity. Illiteracy is probably something that these disabilities might have in common not again because they are an inherent part of the disability.
We all know, because there’s enough studies that people with intellectual disabilities can be taught to read and write using evidence based programs and even those with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities can be taught to read and write. It’s a concern that illiteracy is actually even still an issue but there is a clear link between that and criminal activity. Here is another complicated quote.
Just on that illiteracy issue is it the actual illiteracy or is it that people are situated in the community or the society such that the education system as a whole fails them and their families fail them so it’s not actual illiteracy? The illiteracy is a pointer to some other more important factors.
Yes, that’s right. Just in a few slides I will go into that in more detail. Look, nothing is simple. Everything is linked to something else, which is linked to something else. But yes that’s the answer to your question.
Somebody called Putmans maintained there is a general agreement in the research literature that delinquency is associated with poor educational achievement particularly poor illiteracy. The author stated that this relationship has become so widely accepted that there is a belief that literacy problems are wide spread amongst offenders and literacy deficits are a major cause of crime.
If you think about it, which is not on a particular slide I’ve got, think about bullying for example in schools and how that affects particularly boys.
I think boys probably cop it a bit more than girls. I know girls are subjected to bullying and I’m talking about disabilities. You can turn into a very angry child if you’re bullied. Again, talking about things linking in. Bullying of children with aspurgus for example, there has been books written about that of the high rates of bullying those kids are susceptible to. If you’re bullied constantly and it’s not addressed you probably also heard that people can become bullies but they’re very angry as is understandable. That’s not going to help life generally. That’s from a paper called Crime Can Be Prevented If Schools Teach Juvenile Offenders to Read.
Then several theories have emerged to explain the over representation of youth with disabilities in correction and detention facilities. This includes school failure, susceptibility, differential treatment and metacognitive deficits.
We’re talking mostly I guess about guys, boys, young men. My experience of illiteracy in girls in schools they tend to just get and these are generalisations, tend to get a bit more depressed and withdraw. Whereas boys tend to start acting up and then there becomes this circular problem where they start acting up to get attention because they’re not learning. They attract negative comments from the teacher, they get angrier. It gets worse and worse, detention, suspensions, expulsions.
If anyone works in that area that will be familiar to them. The school failure theory asserts that learning emotional behavioural and intellectual disabilities lead either directly to school failure or transactionally school problems and failure causing negative self-image, bad self-esteem, which in turn leads to school dropout, detention and delinquency.
We all know suspensions and expulsions do actually nothing to assist the child, they might seem an answer to school to get rid of a problem but the child then just has to enrol somewhere else because you have to. Sometimes kids are suspended and expelled from numerous schools in a row.
Here you’ve got your disability factor and then you’ve got this strong link with education and then you’ve got that linking with crime. This also could be a circle rather than just these arrows but I couldn’t work out how to do a circle so I put it like that.
If we don’t think this is satisfactory and I don’t think anyone does we have to rather than just me have a talk about it and everyone go oh dear, this is really bad, I think it’s worthwhile thinking about what is causing it.
Academics are interesting, they produce some very interesting research papers and then they’re off to the next research paper and the next research paper. All this research doesn’t really help us at all unless we do something with it and we somehow apply what we’re learning through research to real life.
It’s interesting because I do work outside of the disability discrimination legal service and I’ve seen some of the clients that I had a few years ago, boys end up in jail about 4 or 5 years later because their parents tend to contact me for referrals to people to help them defend charges.
The theory of these academics if you work in the field you can test it out because you can see it and you can see you are advocating for this child and their school and they didn’t end up getting what they wanted. Then 4 to 5 years later they’re in that unit at Port Phillip. Interestingly I can’t remember what the unit is called at Port Phillip but it’s for people with intellectual disability and learning disorders – Marlborough. It’s actually got some good services. Shouldn’t have to go to jail for good services.
I think I was at that jail way back. I think they have got good assistance for people with disability who go in that area. They helped me to hopefully stay out of trouble. Thank God, I did stay out of trouble now, since I got out.
Right, well as I said and there is also another school, it’s not really a school I think it’s Parkville that the Department of Education set up for juvenile offenders. That seemed really well but again the whole point of research is to try and do preventative stuff.
It’s good having these good programs and nice jail units to assist people with disabilities but I’m often flabbergasted as to why…it’s a bit like building a whole lot of new jails when we don’t put as much time and money into working out how to prevent crime. I don’t mean more police; I mean what are the causes of crime, which is what we’re speaking about today. And then trying not to do something to prevent it in the first place. We don’t seem to learn very well I don’t think.
Going back to the illiteracy connection – do we have a problem competently teaching students with disabilities in our schools? We do and we’ve got now the Victorian EqualOpportunity and Human Rights Report, the “Held Back” report in 2012. It’s a very lengthy report on those problems and we also had the Victorian Auditor General’s Office producing a report at the same time.
One was a qualitative report and one was a quantitative report. One was looking at numbers and figures and one was looking at quality.
At the Disability Discrimination Legal Service, we are a very, very small service and we provide services to the State of Victoria, or we’re meant to. The most common respondent to discrimination complaints and enquiries is the Department of Education.
We find that ironic. We’re a non-Government organisation but we receive Government money mostly through the Commonwealth to put a lot of effort into discrimination caused by Government. I’ve always found that a bit ironic.
As a member of Disability Advocacy Victoria who are partly running this conference, we organised some gathering of statistics and data recently. We’re the peak body for all independent advocacy agencies in Victoria and education issues were the most common complaints. We’re disability advocacy, just on disability.
There is I guess four examples that support the fact that we do have difficulties competently teaching kids with disabilities which goes back to the illiteracy issue. If you have time to read the Equal Opportunity Report, it’s a long one. I’m summarising here and some of the issues are these – attitude. Parents come to me and say the principal comes to me and says look we don’t have the resources to assist your child but I think what they’re really saying is we don’t want them because they’re not really allowed to say that. So students with disabilities often require resources that schools don’t have and the Department of Education doesn’t provide so they’re not welcome.
It may not be necessarily that a principal is just a nasty person they might be thinking oh my god when we had Johnny last year he needed an aid, we couldn’t get funding, it was a terrible experience, I had two teachers on stress leave I can’t go through that again I’m, just going to put them off. And students with disabilities often require expertise that the teachers don’t have and the Department of Education don’t provide resulting in ongoing problems so they’re not welcome.
The Department of Education has a limited number of speech pathologists and psychologists but for kids who have very complex disabilities, autism spectrum disorder for example, combinations of…
I have a client at the moment who has about five disabilities all cognitive, they need some expertise often outside and people have to be paid. There is assistance support teachers and we shouldn’t be expecting teachers to be experts in disability because of course they’re not. They learn teaching; they do a little bit of disability in their teaching course. But clearly there are some kids who need a greater level of expertise to successfully address the barriers their disability poses.
The other issue is that there is no requirement for teachers to use any particular programs. The Department of Education policies and procedures require evidence based interventions but teachers and principals don’t know what these are. Often when you ask the question they actually don’t know. That’s not their fault.
Evidence and science changes all the time and to know what is evidence based, what is effective particularly linked with particular disabilities, you’ve got to keep up with everything. Therefore if they’re not kept up to date they’re not going to know If you listen to teachers talk about their workload and all the work they have to do out of their teaching time this is one more thing they need some assistance with.
So the lack of guidance they get covers both academic practices in other words which literacy and numeracy remedial programs have an evidence based and what are evidence based interventions for disability. You have education disability and of course they both form one issue.
That’s why you might get teachers doing reading recovery three years in a row which is only a program for Grade 1 because they haven’t been told, no one is supervising them and saying no that’s not going to work.
There’s policies that talk about school wide positive behaviour support but a lot of the teachers don’t know what that means. They really need a bit more guidance and support so they can successfully address the impediments that the disabilities cause. When I say impediments, I don’t think a disability causes an inability to learn, well it doesn’t matter what I think, the evidence is that people with disabilities can learn therefore that’s why I talk about impediments. Not the person’s impediments, perhaps barriers is a better word. What are the barriers between this person with a disability and them learning?
The other issue is autonomy. Principals can run their schools in any manner they please. They have to follow basic guidelines, teach properly. Although community schools they’re interesting, they have a very fluid arrangement. Basically in term of programs, how they spend money, what sort of people they get in, each principal has the authority to do whatever they like in that regard.
The other thing that the Commission and the Auditor General found that there’s no across the board training in writing individual education plans which are the back bone I guess of teaching students with disabilities, a plan. They don’t really know who to contact or what to do when faced with challenging behaviours and they don’t know how to run a student support group or that they have to.
Again, the Department of Education has some really good documents regarding these things but often teachers are not familiar with them. These are the things that these two state bodies found, problems.
Okay what are some other factors that could be involved as well? The Equal Opportunity Commission did one chapter on restraint and seclusion. My experience is that it is used prolifically particularly in special schools.
Seclusion is just shutting a kid in a room, they can’t get out or they think they can’t get out. The Auditor General I think only had about five or six recommendations but one of them was to do with restraint. Restraint and seclusion result in trauma and worsening behaviours.
I won’t ask you to take my word for it. The Commission, I’m quoting part of their report – teachers also anonymously called in and spoke to the commission as well. Parents reported restraint and seclusion of students. Many educators, so teachers, reported that they were inadequately trained to deal with the situation. This is what I mean, of course they are.
The Commission found there was no independent oversight or monitoring of the use of seclusion and restraint in Victorian schools. There is no official data on how frequently these practices occur in schools, why they are used or their impacts. The most recent notification I had of physical restraint on a little girl with a photo of an injury was last night.
Recommendations – both the Equal Opportunity Commission and the Office of The Public Advocate have recommended that the Department of Education hand over its regulation of restrictive practices to the Office of the Senior Practitioner. Do you know who he is?
The Office of the Senior Practitioner is part of DHS and there were changes to the disability 4 or 5 years ago.
2006 and there are actually quite a lot of regulations about the use of restrictive practices on adults.
The Office of the Senior Practitioner even though I say it’s part of DHS it falls under DHS but kind of separate. If you want to use restrictive practices on an adult with a disability you’ve got to jump through hoops as you should, you’ve got to prove you’ve done a comprehensive behaviour assessment, got to try other things. You’ve got to ask for permission to use restrictive practices.
The Office of the Senior Practitioner has put out a lot of good booklets about restrictive practices. So far the Department of Education have not agreed to that recommendation. You often find special schools and mainstream saying these children are out of control, they’re violent, they’re aggressive, a lot of unfortunate language used.
We all know if you work in the disability sector there are disabilities like autism spectrum disorder where if you’re not careful children will experience challenging behaviours. The research also tells us that there are interventions that address those, psychological interventions and behavioural interventions, which address these things.
What research does exist indicates that for the majority of those patients that were restrained it was not beneficial and it was a noxious experience, so a really bad experience. That’s out of a hospital setting. Restraint and seclusion often happens in schools, community residential units, institutions, psychiatric institutions. The issues are the same, probably worse if you’re a child.
The use of seclusion and restraint on persons with mental health and or addictive disorders has resulted in deaths and serious physical injury and psychological trauma. That’s from a book School is not Supposed to Hurt which a group of disability agencies in the US got together and wrote and set out the deaths that occurred on children with disabilities in schools from restrictive practices.
Psychological and psychiatric organisations have come to realise that restraint and seclusion are harmful to children. While some psychological effects can be short term such as fear and adrenalin rush constant physical confrontation may lead to long term affects such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
A study asking students to draw pictures of their seclusion indicated that they saw it as a form of punishment. The pictures showed students crying and calling for help. This is all bad news and it is occurring. When you’re traumatised from restrictive practices you then even if you didn’t have one before, have a mental health problem puts you back into the risk factor again.
So you can see it’s a big circle, all these things are joined up. Again, because I couldn’t do my circle I did my arrows. You’ve got disability, violence against a child and restraint is violent. We have had three teachers sitting on kids on the floor. Mental health problems, crime – so can something be done, yes and look if it’s not obviously clear straight away that this is something to be fixed….there was so much research on restrictive practices, there is no way I could put it in.
But it also is traumatic for the teachers, the people doing the restraint. It is also traumatic for them and they often develop difficulties as well because I don’t think, well I wouldn’t know, I don’t know if anyone has been involved in trying to restrain someone who’s trying to hurt you even if it’s a child. Or if you’ve ever been hit even accidentally it’s really quite upsetting.
I can remember once, I was shut in between a door and a wall by someone who was just so upset she wanted to leave the room so quickly I was kind of in the way and I was sandwiched. I knew she didn’t do it on purpose and in fact she was so upset 10 minutes later she came back and she was hugging me and she was saying she was sorry. There wasn’t any malice towards me at all but it was a real shock to me to have that happen.
If you’re shutting children in rooms when they’re screaming and crying and kicking, if you’re literally physically holding kids on the ground who are struggling and trying to get away it is damaging to those people as well. We all know.
I have a friend who is a teacher, was a teacher and went on work cover and left the system due to having a kid with a disability in her class that wasn’t funded and to cut a long story short it was so stressful she ended up leaving. When she did leave, the child got an aid but it was a bit too late for her.
As you can see, there’s good reasons all around to address some of these problems. You’ve got the mental health of students and the well-being, you’ve got their education, you’ve got the mental health and well-being of teachers, you’ve got the criminal justice system.
We can’t just talk about these things like we’re doing today in my opinion without thinking okay well what should we do? We’ve already had a lot of recommendations made about what needs to happen to improve the ability of schools to address kids with disabilities. And while the Auditor General only made five recommendations, I think the Commission made about…gosh fifty, I don’t know. I think the Human Rights Commission I don’t see them as a very radical body.
If you look at the recommendations, they’re mostly pretty sensible. Those of us in various groups that network with each other are concerned because while meetings might be occurring, we can’t see any changes happening on the ground yet.
I’d like to know who educates the educators to do a better job?
Look, I usually don’t have a lot of praise for Christopher Pyne however; he has just made two very sensible appointments to this body whose name escapes me.
Look I think you might also be familiar with the fact that there’s also been a lot of research in the last couple of years about the fact that to be a teacher you can even fail and still get in. There’s been a lot of criticism in the newspapers, which is probably hard for teachers who love their job to read and digest but about the fact that you don’t have to get very high marks to be a teacher.
When you think about it teaching children is probably one of the most important things you can do. Teaching children with disabilities apart from being important, it obviously requires a lot of skill as well.
These discussions have been taking place and I think that’s over the last 5 years. Christopher Pyne has put in two people, one is John Hattie I think and the other guy is John Fleming.
Now these might not mean much to people, who aren’t educationalists, but John Fleming worked in, I hope I’m getting them the right way, worked in a primary school in Heidelberg. By using evidence based literacy programs it could’ve even been West Heidelberg, poor socio-economic area really doing badly in educational achievement. He comes in he changes the whole thing and turns the whole school around.
All of the sudden these kids are achieving. It was very exciting. Unfortunately, Haileybury then snapped him up. But he is a pioneer in relation to evidence-based education.
I guess we’re all hoping that something will happen in terms of the training of teachers but it is certainly something that is being discussed at noisome at the moment so that’s a good thing.
Can you tell me on what basis the Department of Education refuse to hand over its powers with restrictive practices?
I don’t know. It’s probably not normal for one Department to hand over regulation of what’s it’s doing in a small area to another but I think why that recommendation was made is because there is currently no alternative that is there. There is no prohibition on seclusion, in other words there is no rules against seclusion in Government schools. And there is no one you have to check with before you start implementing those practices. I think that’s why these two bodies made that recommendation. I guess I don’t know. Amanda, can you wait for the microphone?
My name is Amanda Hithco and something just hit me in the head and it’s got my ears flying back and forth. On the Doctor Phil program, which is American, he is a mandate person to go to the authorities about kids getting bullied and all that. Do they have such laws here in Australia?
We’ve got Occupational Health and Safety Laws, I’m trying to think of anything else that mentions bullying. The thing about bullying as with other things a lot of schools have a reactive policy or what I call a shallow policy – Just Say No. If anyone is old enough to remember it’s like Nancy Reagan and the drug thing – Just Say No.
In the great book about aspurgus and bullying it talks about a whole lot of preventative programs that the US has in place. The US it’s not Nirvana; it has some fantastic practice and some really bad practice. But they’ve got a lot of really good preventative program about bullying. The idea you have in your school all these programs, you’re learning about bullying whether it happens or not. So there’s theatre plays, really fun programs that help kids in school learn about bullying and why it’s not good.
What I’ve seen a lot here is firstly bullying is not on, here is what we do if bullying happens. We have restorative practices which means we get everybody together for a chat. That’s alright but again lets go to the other side. What programs can we put in place that creates a culture that stops it from happening? That’s what I would like to see.
The other thing I have seen a lot of is students reporting bullying and the teacher saying to the parents I didn’t see it or I asked Peter if he said that thing to Johnny and he said he didn’t, I think it’s just his perception of bullying. That seems disappointing as well that kids are not always believed. That’s my long answer. And did you have another question in the orange shirt?
I did but I have forgotten now. You’ve finally touched on it. I’ve worked in a school for 7 years as an aid. Everything you described I have seen in action and it was appalling. Two things and I worked with children with autism.
Any time I saw a teacher approach a child with autism in a fashion like you would treat a dog, wanting to injure, harm and bully, the dog would come out snapping and fighting. I saw all of that. My question before about how do you educate the educators who does that, when is that going to start? They don’t really want to know.
The other thing that happened in this school not in the city, in the country the hierarchy in the school were bullies. Once you take the bullies out of the system, the children are not bullies. I have witnessed that happen. The Principal of the school was a woman who had a really important position and she influenced other teachers to become bullies. Once that changed it was a lovely school. Change can happen.
This is probably going back to the silo issue with the schools. Sometimes parents I know contact regional offices and they say we can’t tell the Principal what to do. I guess unless it was just a huge breach in policy I’m sure something could happen then. Generally speaking, the way the Principal runs the school is the way it runs the school.
In terms of who’s teaching them I guess this goes back to that umbrella thing again about guidance needed and more direction that’s needed with these people. There are evidence-based interventions that are academic and are behavioural; they are usually not being used. Who’s telling them to use them, who is educating as you say the educators? It seems the answer probably is no one at the moment.
I know there are documents available for teachers on the web, whether they read them or not is up to them. Even the autism schools don’t use the only established evidence based intervention for autism. It’s something we should keep talking about because it’s a big problem. Mark?
Thanks Julie, Mark Feigan Office of the Public Advocate. I have been with you in a courtroom where the education system was on trial in a way. That’s not how the proceedings was conducted but it’s kind of what I saw happening. It wasn’t a good look for the education system and you’re showing us again, it’s failings.
My question or my comment is more about how that is I think a symptom of wider failings. The education system is letting down people with disabilities in a serious harmful way. But they’re not alone.
If you look at the prison population, it depends on what measures you use but if you assess for acquired brain injury or brain injury, you will find that roughly half the prison population has an acquired brain injury. Most of those prisons with a brain injury would’ve gone through mainstream schools without a brain injury and might have a University degree. They acquired an injury after the education system so we can’t blame the education system for them being in prison.
It’s something else that’s gone wrong and the something else that’s gone wrong is often disability services or the mainstream supports you would look to to support people, so that when they’re in crisis they didn’t look at crime as a solution to their problems or their support needs were met and they don’t end up in jail or go back to jail.
So we have got a big problem here. Part of it in the education system and part of it how our supports widely are letting down people with disability to the point where we’re wasting $63,000 per annum to lock someone up at the minimum, I think more than that. Maybe a more sensible investment we would all be at a happier place.
Yeah, we could talk all day about the different areas of disability services. I guess one of the reasons I’m passionate about children is because it’s the start of your life. If that’s all stuffed up you’re in trouble.
When I was here a couple of years ago at the last conference, I was talking about activism and the lack there of in my humble opinion going on here in Victoria. I think when you talk about court Mark, parents if you can imagine are pushed to the absolute limit before they decide to do such a thing.
Sometimes I’ve seen families try and negotiate for one or two years with schools and the Department and do it unsuccessfully. Clearly, we’ve got to do talking like this conference but then everyone goes away. I think we’ve all got to think about these issues and think about working strategically together to address them. Talking is not going to cut it. We know what some of the issues are and we know how to fix them.
I think sometimes we forget the most basic unit in our society is the family. If families need support and they need support and education in how to help their child with a disability and when that child goes into a school, they need to have a positive partnership with the school.
I’ve had various children at various levels of school and it’s okay to say you don’t restrain your child but when your child is in a classroom and throwing computers and is hitting there has to be some type of restraint.
But the ability of the teacher to read the child before it gets to that point is often reflected by the ability of the parents to teach the teacher what their child’s needs are and what to put in before it gets to that point. Often that is really overlooked.
Teachers don’t often want to listen to parents. Parents are often intimidated about going into schools and teaching.
They’re really good points. Parents often don’t know the answers either. They’re not experts in disability either and they don’t know what the latest psychological interventions are, they don’t know how to write a positive behaviour plan.
I think it’s an indictment on the whole system that it’s almost set up to cause friction between teachers and parents. All parents and teachers I’m assuming that’s got to be the case, want a good constructive relationship.
But to give a very simple example, if your child is deaf and needs an Auslan interpreter and a school can’t afford one, they’re not getting the money to afford one. The child comes home crying every day, the mum keeps going and saying what are you doing, get me the Auslan interpreter, tensions start to rise, arguments start to happen and it’s a recipe for disaster.
That’s why we’ve got to look at the issue in a very broad way because as I said it’s not helpful for parents or teachers.
Following on from what the lady in the orange was saying, who is educating the educators. One thing that’s concerning me, we employ a teachers aids to assist a child with a disability.
A teacher’s aid is usually the least qualified person at the school but is expected to work and challenge the child with the disability who has the most challenging need. It somehow absolves the classroom teacher.
I think we’ve got it the wrong way. The teachers aid needs to be more skilled in lots of ways to work with the child with a disability or the student with a disability.
That’s true as well. It’s an issue that’s been highlighted and it’s probably got to do with money I guess.
Aids only need a working with children check. Aids can work very well under structured programs. I’m thinking for example kids with severe language disorder that need a speech pathologist to devise a speech pathology program.
There was one particular one, can’t remember the name of it but it was a whole system where speech pathologists were designing programs for kids with language disorders, training the aid how to do it, collect data. In that circumstance where the aid has the support and the supervision, and she was regularly supervised that worked really well.
Similarly, one of my clients in my other job who was described here…getting back to the comment of restraint and seclusion. What the Office of the Senior Practitioner says is this, if someone has a meltdown adult or child and lashes out and is going to hurt someone you might have to restrain them. But after that you know there is a likelihood that might happen again so you immediately do a planned response, which is a comprehensive behaviour, assessment, analysis, behaviour plan and psychologists etc.
There should not be a need to repeat it because if there is something about your plan is not working.
I was about to say in terms of aids and qualifications, one of my kids who was restrained and secluded quite a bit was described as violent and aggressive and had very few independent abilities. The family moved and went overseas and the child now does the shopping once a week on his own in the shop. He has his own wallet. I have seen the videos of him. It is unbelievable. He has a behaviour therapist working with him particularly when he first started supervised by a board certified behavioural analyst.
For some kids we’re looking at a huge sophistication needed to address these problems. His life is just completely different. It is difficult with aids, some of them are terrific but of course they need support, guidance and training too. It all comes back to this support, structure and learning. Thank you.
Fiona from Grampians Disability Advocacy, sorry for the referrals. I wanted to touch on the parents and the lack of resources. One of the recurring themes I seem to be getting is parents ignored as a resource. Quite often they’re the expert in the child’s behaviour and they’re not utilised.
Quite often they’re offering the resources with the positive behaviour assessments and again they’re ignored by the schools. It’s a failure to recognise the resources that are already there.
Yeah that’s true. Christian over here. That’s true and some parents do have really good ideas. Department of Policy says in the student support group guidelines parents should have their views valued. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. I think in the end if it’s a perfect consideration then everyone is working at the best interest of the child. I have you and you and then we better finish. Christian?
Basically what I would like to say, I think the system is completely wrong from the basics. We’ve got the private school and public school.
If you look at the private system most people with a disability or anyone, who need support will never be able to get into a private school. It sounds like all the responsibility is given to the public system and we create (inaudible) basically of people. People who get the opportunity in their life if they go to a private school and people who are not getting to get much opportunity if they go to a public school system.
I think the solution to that will be if both system work together rather than trying to be in competition somehow.
Yeah and private schools often don’t like kids with disabilities because they like to boast at the end of the year how high their marks are, they are worried they will be dragged down by kids with disabilities.
We all know public schools educate most of us and they’ve got to be provided with the money to do so. A principal with a global budget that thinks gees this kid didn’t get funding but needs a full time aid, that’s $45,000 but there is 20 holes in my roof, it’s leaking, which one will I do.
We can criticise but it’s not a fair situation to be in. Public schools I’m a big supporter of but they’ve got to be supported properly. Sorry, last question?
I’ve got a son who is going to start school next year. He is not at my place I got him on weekends. I’m afraid people who have got him at the moment is not teaching him at home hardly anything and I’m scared when he starts school will be bullied or get behind from the school system.
Maybe you can ask the school what bullying programs they’ve got in place. I don’t mean what they do after someone has been bullied but what they do and encourage them to put in bullying programs all the time throughout the school year. And sometimes in terms of schools talk to other parents. There is a good grapevine.
If you have someone with a good attitude leading the school that’s great. Even if they don’t have the money they do their best. Sorry I only have a couple of slides left.
What are the good reasons for people with disabilities to be educated? As if it’s not obvious. Firstly, it’s their right to be educated. Secondly, they can get jobs and become contributing members of the community.
Do you remember the Price Waterhouse Cooper Report that came out a couple of years ago, people with disabilities were in the second or worst level of poverty in the developed world. Some terrible statistic I’ve probably got that wrong. So we want people with disabilities to have a good future. Economically it makes sense, whoever talked about the money going into something or other when it should be going into this.
If you look at some of the economic studies, you get a job, you can pay tax, you’re not getting the pension and look what’s happening now.
You’ve got threats of the disability support pension, impossible tasks for some people with disabilities who weren’t on the pension but might have to apply for 40 jobs per week. You’ve got the squeeze on the pensions but a lot of kids with disabilities could get tertiary education and get jobs if they had a good education. There is an economic argument, which shouldn’t be our main argument, but it is a good economic argument as to why money should go into education.
Of course there is equality and non-discrimination. According to research we will have less crime. We might not have to build the next jail if we took all the people with disabilities out of it, we would have a great saving there.
So how do we achieve all that wish list? Well we really do need to work at it guys. You’re all members of organisations, you need to encourage them to take these things up and liaise with each other in terms of a plan of how to address them.
I’m sure you’re as sick as I am about reading reports about the socio-economic status of people with disabilities, how much money they don’t have, the quality of their lives, they can’t get an education. We need to stop just reading these reports and talking to ourselves about them and really planning as to what we can do about it.
As I said in terms of this topic, it’s good for children, teachers, families. There’s not a bad thing about educating kids and keeping them out of jail.
Thank you for listening.