Information Sheet Schooling Options for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Information Sheet
Schooling Options for Children with Autism
Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
From The Spectrum, Autumn 2007, reviewed and updated April 2011; rev. December 2013.
Planning for the school year needs to
commence as early as possible, especially if
you are considering moving your child to a
new school setting. This article by
Psychologist Kirsty Kerr outlines some of the
options and processes in the Victorian
education system.
Eligibility Requirements
In choosing a school for your child, it is
important to be aware of the different
eligibility requirements at different schools.
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
have a range of options, including:
Special Developmental School (SDS)
Special School (SS)
Autism Specific School - or unit in local
Mainstream School - Government,
Independent, or Catholic school
Specialist Schools or Units for learning
difficulties/emotional or behavioural
Students with an ASD
Special Developmental Schools (SDS)
Students with an IQ of below 55 (as
measured on an intelligence test by a
psychologist), can attend an SDS. Such
schools include students with a variety of
different difficulties, including autism,
chromosomal disorders like Down
Syndrome, physical disabilities and high
medical needs in addition to the IQ below
55. An advantage is the small class sizes,
with usually a teacher and an assistant to
each class of around 8 students. Students
have access to professionals, such as
physiotherapists and speech pathologists.
SDS’s cater for students between 4 years 8
months, and 18 years. Some also have early
education programs for preschoolers aged 2
years, 8 months. For more information
about Special Developmental School’scontact the Department of Education and
Early Childhood Development (DEECD) in
your region.
Special Schools (SS)
Students with an IQ of between 55 and 70
(as measured on an intelligence test by a
psychologist), can attend a Special School.
Students diagnosed with autism and a mild
intellectual disability attend, along with
others who may have diagnoses such as
Down Syndrome or mild intellectual
disability alone. Class sizes are around 10-15
students for every 2 staff members. Students
may have access to professionals such as
Amaze (Autism Victoria)
T: 1300 308 699 W:
speech pathologists and occupational
therapists as part of their weekly program.
exception to this). Separate secondary
schooling options will need to be considered.
Special Schools can cater for primary aged
students only, secondary aged students only,
or students from 5-18 in the same school.
For more information about Special Schools
in your region contact DEECD in your region.
There are various specialist autism schools
across the State. To find out the contact
details of your nearest specialist autism
school or unit, contact Autism Victoria on
(03) 9657 1600.
Autism Specific Schools
Mainstream Government Schools
Students who meet the ‘Autism Spectrum
Disorder’ criteria detailed in the Department
of Education’s ‘Program for Students with a
Disability’ booklet are eligible to attend.
Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder can
attend their local State School. Some
students with ASD are eligible for funding for
integration support through the ‘Program for
Students with a Disability’. Students with
ASD can qualify under either the (a)
‘Intellectual Disability’ criteria, or (b) ‘Autism
Spectrum Disorder criteria’, or on some
occasions (c) ‘Severe Behaviour Disorder’
criteria if they did not receive funding under
(a) or (b), and their behaviour has become
too challenging to manage in a traditional
This includes:
Difficulties with adaptive behaviour - the
child’s ability to do things for
themselves, such as dressing, toileting
and interacting with others. This is
assessed by a parent interview called the
‘Vineland Scale of Adaptive Behaviour’.
Language difficulties, as evidenced by a
score on a formal language assessment
lower than 70 (where the average score
is 100).
A diagnosis of Autism Spectrum
A history of ongoing difficulties, and
expectation that these will continue
throughout the school years.
To read the criteria in more detail, go to
being/wellbeing/disability/default.htm . Click
on 2011 Program for Students with
Disabilities - Handbook (PDF - 299Kb) and
view page 35.
A specialist autism school only has students
with autism. Class sizes are small, and
depending on the needs of the particular
students in the class, may be between 1-3
students per staff member. Students usually
have access to professionals such as speech
pathologists and occupational therapists as
part of their weekly program.
Specialist Autism schools currently only cater
for primary school aged children (Bulleen
Heights school in north-east Melbourne is an
Amaze (Autism Victoria)
To read the criteria in more detail, go to:
being/wellbeing/disability/default.htm . Click
on 2011 Program for Students with
Disabilities - Handbook (PDF - 299Kb)and
view pages 32-36.
Levels of funding for the child are
determined by completing the ‘Educational
Needs Questionnaire’ (ENQ). Level 1 funding
is the lowest, and Level 6 funding is the
highest. The 2010 levels of funding are as
Regular School
Students with
Specialist School
Students with
Level 1
Level 2
Level 3
Level 4
Level 5
Level 6
T: 1300 308 699 W:
The school determines how the funds will be
spent to support the child in the school. This
may be with an integration aide for the
child’s classroom, professional development
for staff, therapy time (such as speech
pathology), or equipment for the classroom.
To read the items in the ENQ, go to
wellbeing/disability/default.htm or contact
DEECD for a copy of the Program for
Students with a Disability and Language
Support Program Handbook.
Independent and Catholic Schools
For some tips about selecting a mainstream
school, refer to the article ‘Choosing a school
for the student with Autism Spectrum
Disorder’ available from Autism Victoria.
Students with HFA, Asperger’s Syndrome
and PDD-NOS can attend their local State
School. The majority of children with these
diagnoses do not meet the ‘Intellectual
Disability’ or ‘Autism Spectrum Disorder’
criteria in order to access additional funding
support for the school. On some occasions,
the child may receive funding under ‘Severe
Behaviour Disorder’ criteria if their
behaviour has become too challenging to be
managed in a traditional classroom.
Base rooms in Government Schools
Some government schools have a ‘base
room’ or specialised classroom within the
school to cater for students with ASD. This is
generally a smaller class size, with staff
experienced in working with students with
ASD. Members of Autism Victoria have
indicated their children attend ‘base rooms’
at the following schools:
Niddrie Campus of Essendon Keilor
College affiliated with Western Autistic
Werribee South Primary School
(Western metropolitan region)
Baringa Special School (Gippsland
For more information about base rooms in
government schools, contact DEECD in your
Students with ASD can also attend an
Independent or Catholic School, with
funding for integration support if certain
criteria are met, as outlined in the next
Students with High Functioning
Autism (HFA), Asperger’s
Syndrome, and PDD-NOS
Government Schools
To read the criteria in more detail, go to:
being/wellbeing/disability/default.htm . Click
on 2011 Program for Students with
Disabilities - Handbook (PDF - 299Kb)and
view pages 27-37.
Alternative modes of study in
Government Schools:
Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning
An alternative to the VCE which some
students with ASD undertake is the Victorian
Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL). This is
a hands-on option for students in Years 11
and 12. The VCAL provides practical workrelated experience, as well as literacy and
numeracy skills, and the opportunity to build
personal skills that are important for life and
work. Some students complete this over 3
years. For more information, visit, or
contact DEECD in your region.
Access Yea Community Education (AYCE)
The AYCE Program aims at providing
education for students who, for a wide
Amaze (Autism Victoria)
T: 1300 308 699 W:
variety of reasons, are not enrolled at a
school. The program runs at Yea High School,
and has eight off-campus centres. Weekly
attendance is required at the centre of
choice, and compulsory attendance two days
a term at Yea High School for a meeting from
10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
For more information, phone Mrs Annette
Scales on (03) 9758 6604 or go to
Independent Schools
Students with ASD can also attend their local
Independent School. The criteria for
eligibility of funding is very similar to that
used in government schools, however the
amount of funding allocated may be
significantly less than the allocation in
Government Schools.
For more information about supports
available for students with ASD in
Independent schools, contact the
Association of Independent Schools, Victoria
on (03) 9825 7200 or go to:
An Independent School with a
Difference: Alia School
The Alia School has a more relaxed
attitude than other traditional secondary
schools. Students do not have to wear a
uniform (this may be good for those with
sensory issues around clothing), and
students and teachers share a common
room at recess and lunch (greater
protection against bullying).
Aspects of the school which may be
difficult for a student with Asperger
Syndrome are the lack of traditional
structures like bells to signal end of classes
and break times. It may suit some
students. Visit
Amaze (Autism Victoria)
Catholic Schools
Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder can
attend their local Catholic School. They may
be eligible for integration support if they
meet the Catholic Education Office criteria,
which is slightly different to that for
government schools. The criteria of ‘Social
and Emotional’ difficulties is one whereby
some students with High Functioning Autism
or Asperger Syndrome receive integration
support funding. Information from the
Catholic Education Office states
‘Social/Emotional disorders are confirmed
following consideration of a recent
behavioural assessment/statement of the
diagnosis from a registered psychiatrist or
psychologist. Ongoing psychological or
psychiatric intervention is required and an
alternative educational placement is also
considered to be a potential management
For further information about supports for a
student with Autism Spectrum Disorder in
Catholic schools, call 03) 9267 0228, or go to:
What if my child is not allocated
additional funding at their school?
Often students with HFA, Asperger
Syndrome and PDD-NOS are not eligible for
funding for integration support, as their
difficulties are not considered severe enough
to require additional support. In this case,
individual teachers or the school as a whole
are required to meet the student’s needs,
within the resources they already have.
As more and more students with ASD enter
the mainstream setting, the need for wellinformed and experienced staff becomes
apparent. Sometimes this may be assisted by
reading material recommended by Autism
Victoria, or an in-service presentation to
school staff by a professional knowledgeable
about ASD. In some areas this can be
presented by a staff member from a
specialist autism school. As part of the
Federal Government’s Helping Children with
Autism initiative there is also a national
program of professional development
workshops available for school staff to help
T: 1300 308 699 W:
build knowledge, skills and expertise in
working with these children. Contact Autism
Victoria on (03) 9657 1600 for options in
your area.
* NB: Regardless of whether the school
receives additional funding for the child with
HFA, Asperger Syndrome or PDD-NOS, you
are still entitled to have ‘Student Support
Group’ SSG meetings (previously known as
Program Support Group-PSG meetings) with
school staff at least once per term to discuss
your child’s progress, and set goals for the
following term.
Specialist Schools or Units for learning
difficulties, emotional or behavioural
Specialist Schools or units are run through
the Independent or Catholic Schooling
system to teach students with these distinct
needs. Sometimes students with ASD
(particularly Asperger Syndrome) are
amongst the students with these difficulties.
Examples of schools are:
Social and Emotional difficulties
Berengarra School (Independent)
Cheshire School (Independent)
Currajong School (Independent)
Larmenier Child and Family Centre
Doxa School West Melbourne (formerly
Marist Transition School) (Catholic)
St. Augustine’s Education (Catholic)
St. Helen’s (Mackillop Family Services)
Learning difficulties
Andale School (Independent)
Bilanook College (Independent)
Cheshire School (Independent)
Rossbourne School- for IQ between 6080 (Independent)
St. Helen’s (Mackillop Family Services)
Amaze (Autism Victoria)
For more information about the locations of
these schools, the costs to attend, and the
ages of children serviced, contact:
Those schools marked ‘Independent’ and
additional units within other schools, contact
the Association of Independent Schools
Victoria, (03) 9825 7200
Those schools marked ‘Catholic’, contact the
Catholic Education Office on (03) 9267 0228,
Oasis Sunshine College is an alternative
public school setting for 11 to 15 year olds
who are not accommodated in mainstream
schools. It offers an option for kids who face
expulsion, are non-attendees, who have
academic difficulties, display anti-social
behaviour, have experienced physical and/or
emotional abuse, and/or are casualties of
family breakdown.
Miscellaneous non-ASD specific options
Steiner schools. The Steiner system is based
on the teachings of Austrian educationist
Rudolf Steiner. Among its distinguishing
features are that children do not start
reading until age seven and have the same
main teacher for the first eight years of
school. This may suit children with Asperger
Syndrome who need such consistency, and
who are resistant to learning at another
person’s pace. Children who require a
structured and systematic approach to
teaching may find this environment is not
suitable for their acquisition of literacy.
There are at least six Steiner programs in
state schools, including Footscray City
Primary School and Castlemaine Secondary
Montessori. This approach is based on
"following the child", on recognising the
developmental needs and characteristics of
children of each age group and constructing
the corresponding environment that best
meets these needs. For more information
about the approach, and schools offering
this approach, visit:
T: 1300 308 699 W:
Home-schooling. This is often a last resort
for parents when they feel that attendance
at any kind of school has not been successful
academically, or has been detrimental to
their child’s well-being due to bullying, etc.
Resources about home schooling are: .
for lesson plans for Christian and other
lessons. Check that these meet government
curriculum standards.
Also, see the following books in the Autism
Victoria Library.
#2386. Choosing Home - Deciding to
Homeschool with Asperger's Syndrome.
# 2445. Homeschooling the child with
Asperger Syndrome. PYLES.
©2011 Autism Victoria trading as Amaze.
Permission is granted for the content of this
information sheet to be reproduced in its
entirety, provided Autism Victoria is
acknowledged as the source and the website
address is given.
Amaze (Autism Victoria)
T: 1300 308 699 W: