As a parent, I want the best for my child. I want my daughter to access all opportunities to learn, develop and thrive – wherever she is. This feeling of care and responsibility is overwhelming and infinite – and it doesn’t end when your child has special needs.
My daughter, Charli is seven years old. At age four, she was diagnosed with moderate to severe hearing loss requiring the use of hearing aids, as well as severe speech and language delays. This of course, doesn’t change the way I feel about her, but from then I realised everything was going to be that little bit harder.
Things you don’t even consider difficult will present problems, and as she started school, it was highlighted how her journey had only just started.
Many parents enroll their children at school and that’s the end of that – job done. For Charli, the school enrolment process involved a variety of other considerations, red tape, emotions and anxiety… Not only for her– but for me too.
It wasn’t only because I was worried about whether she would make friends, or fit in. I mean, those concerns were there, but they were only a part of the intersecting challenges my daughter will face forever.
My main concern was if she would get the chance to learn.
It seems simple, the notion every child should get the same opportunities as their neighbour. To learn the same things and to get the same access to learning in class. But being in the same classroom doesn’t equal access.
Access is more than chairs in a classroom - access in education is ensuring every child, independent of their individual requirements, gets the education and opportunities they need, the way they need it.
Access is ensuring they get to be on a level playing field and have the same chance to thrive as their counterparts.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not asking for more education. I’m asking that my child, along with the other thousands of Australian kids with special needs, get the same chance to learn and thrive at school. I want Charli and every one of those children to believe – and to know – that the world is open to them. As they deserve.
We are the lucky ones. Since diagnosed, Charli has been able to get the right support to give her the help she needs.
She’s in a mainstream class with four other students who are either deaf or hearing impaired. They have a mainstream teacher and also a Teacher of the Deaf, and they receive extra support from a School Support Officer.
Charli is given one on one support daily with teachers who are trained in the disability area, and when she gets distracted – they give her the extra attention she needs.
Her school leads in the area of hearing impairment with staff that have a great understanding of how our kids need to be taught and what extra help they need – and I see her enthusiasm in receiving that support every day.
The NSW Teacher's Federation explains Gonski. Post continues below.
Had she started school maybe five years earlier – or later – the story would have been quite different.
This special assistance ensures my daughter’s school can provide the individual support she needs in class. They can hire and train specialist staff that have the resources they need to deliver the programs in a way Charli can engage with. I know that without it, she would have been left behind.
This program was only made possible because of Gonski. I had heard this term being thrown around by political parties for what felt like decades, but it isn’t until I needed it that I realised the difference it made, not only for me – but for my daughter too.
David Gonski’s model of providing public funding to schools on the basis of individual student need is revolutionary. It is based on evidence and on the current requirements our schools have to battle with to deliver education to our children. Without it, thousands of children will fall through the cracks.
My child’s education is not politics – it is her future. I want a government that sees that, and will commit to giving her a real chance to learn to grow, a chance to build the foundations to transfer into her adult years.
On July 2nd, South Australian parents have the responsibility to consider their child’s future as one of the key priorities when voting for government. That’s why this election, I’ll be voting for a party that will stand by my daughter and her education.
Leslee Moyle is a South Australian mother and a supporter of the Learn to Grow campaign. If you would like to learn more, visit their website here.
Learn to Grow are hosting a education forum tonight at 5:30pm AEST (5pm Adelaide time and 3:30pm Perth time). You can watch and participate the forum by joining the Facebook event.