"The heartbreaking reason I am dreading my son's first day at school."


While most five-year-olds are counting down the days until they put on their over-sized school uniforms and kiss their wailing mothers goodbye, Sebastian Baltins is left confused and overwhelmed by the concept of beginning school.

 Sebastian Baltins, 5, has Autism Spectrum Disorder

Sebastian, five, lives with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and also suffers from Attention Hyper Activity Disorder (ADHD) as well as Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD).

Sebastian is sweet and mischievous, just like any little boy, but he requires a lot of care. Each week he needs occupational therapy, speech therapy and has also been receiving social skill therapy in the lead up to starting school.

It’s this kind of ongoing support that Sebastian requires once he begins school — but his mother, Alex Baltins, 27, is concerned the local school isn’t equipped to handle her disabled son’s learning condition.

Sadly, that means her son can only attend classes in short bursts, lest he becomes overwhelmed.

“When my little boy has his first day at school, it won’t be the typical tears and waving him off at the gate. Instead my son will only be able to attend for one hour a day for the first two weeks,” she told Mamamia. “This time will increase in 30-60 minute increments fortnitely,  should he cope well enough.”

“My son, like many others in my local area, won’t know the joy of recess for approximately two to three months. Even then he will be shuffled home straight after recess before the bell even goes,” she said.

Alex Baltins is petitioning the Australian government for more support for her son Sebastian, 5, who has Autism Spectrum Disorder

There’s another issue Sebastian and Alex have to contend with: the fact that there are a very limited number of places for kids with disabilities in specific government funded public schools, meaning families with special-needs kids are forced to compete in “a lottery of sorts” just to find their child a place.


“There are only three government support units in my area and only four to six children get accepted into each. To get a place in these supported classes you have to apply to the Department of Education and Communities and it becomes a lottery of sorts,” Ms Baltins told Mamamia.”It then becomes the luckiest day of your life if your child is accepted.”

Ms Baltins is so concerned, she’s petitioning the Australian Federal Government, the NSW Government and the Department of Education for extra support for her autistic son and other children with similar conditions.

“I am a blessed person to know many wonderful children who are on the spectrum, one of those wonderful children is my son,” Ms Baltin writes in the petition. “Every single one of these children have the potential to lead successful and fulfilling lives. But, the education system is failing many of these children by not providing adequate support for them in schools.”

Adrian Ford, CEO of Autism Spectrum Australia, has noted a large increase in the number of people diagnosed with autism in Australia over the last 15 years.

“The prevalence [of ASD] among children and young people is now one in 100,” Ford said.

Sebastian will never know what it is like to experience a ‘typical’ day at school

There was a 79% increase in autism diagnosis from 2009 to 2012 with the largest increase seen in the newborn to nine-year-old age group — but even with these statistics there isn’t enough support in place for special needs students in the NSW public school system.

In 2012, 86% of autistic school children reported ‘having difficulty’ at school with many having trouble “fitting in socially, learning and communicating,” the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reports, and 65 percent of parents do not believe that public school teachers know enough about ASD to be able to cope with the increasing number of autistic students beginning school.


Under the Labor government, the most comprehensive investigation of the way Australian schools are funded in almost 40 years took place. That report, the Gonski report, lead t0 $5 billion per year agreement into the education system, with greater support for children with disabilities and special needs.

But the Abbott Government is refusing to honour this agreement: The legislation will stand for the next four years, but after that the agreement will be abandoned.

The prevalence [of ASD] among children and young people is now one in 100. (Note: This is a stock photo)

Statewide, the NSW government is helping teachers and support staff deal with the increase in autistic students through their Every student, Every school initiative — but their funding can only stretch so far.

While NSW has eight independent ASPECT schools and nearly 100 satellite classes available for ASD children, ASPECT schools only receive partial government funding with school fees costing around $4,800 each year per student for some parents like Ms Baltins, the cost is just too high.

“I wish I could send Seb to an ASPECT satellite class, but I simply can not afford it,” Ms Baltins said.


Do you believe the Australian government has invested enough funding into the public system to cope with the rise in Autism Spectrum Disorder students?