Friday, 19 April 2013

Queensland Education ECDP Cut Backs!

Yesterday I had a meeting with our ECDP HOSES (transalation: Early Childhood Development Program Head of Special Education Services).  The Qld Dept of Education has canned the ECDP program for children in the Prep year.  I am scared, upset and very angry.  But so you understand why I need to explain.

ECDP is a program for children from 0 to 5 who have special needs.  You don't necessarily need a diagnosis, your child just needs additional support and help.  Since in this age group most parents haven't been given a diagnosis yet that is a good thing.  

For the play group years (0 to 3.5) we attend a playgroup one morning a week during school term.  They have a very structured program so the kids do OT courses to help them with gross motor skills, craft to help with fine motor skills and other activities to help with learning and socialisation.  There is also time for free play where the parents get to stand around and chat.

When the kids reach 3.5 they move up to the Kindy level group.  At this stage they go two mornings a week and the parents drop them off instead of staying and helping.  This is also a very structured group and speech therapists and occupational therapists come along to work with the kids on a regular basis.

The classes are deliberately small, the environment nurturing and the teachers and aids are trained in all the techniques and strategies needed to best communicate with and help our kids.  It's a lovely way for our kids to get the idea of being around other kids and about trying to stay still a focus for periods of time, which is REALLY hard for them.

The final step is/was the prep year.  In that year the most common thing to do was split placement (some went cold turkey but that was rare).  That is where the child did ECDP for two days per week and then main stream prep for as many other days per week as they could cope with.  Main stream schools are required to support special needs kids and are given additional funding for 'resources' (that is what Qld Ed calls an additional staff member).  The 'resources' are not allocated per child they are just allocated across the whole school (because the funding is sooooo limited).

The main idea of this year was to gently transition our kids into the shark pit of main stream schooling. And now it's gone.  Now our kids are going to get dumped into the middle of a room of other kids with little or no additional support.  I'm afraid our kids our going to get kicked out of classes and either shipped off home or put in a room by themselves with the concept of educating them a non-existent priority.  Welcome back to the age of institutions!

The reality is there isn't enough resourcingin Qld schools.  Kids get left to their own devices in a class full of other kids most of the time and  their teachers aren't trained in special needs.  There are supposed to be travelling OT's visit the schools but they can only get around to all the kids a few times per term at best.  And just because they recommend equipment and processes for that child doesn't mean they get it.  The schools don't want to spend their funds on that kind of thing and the teachers don't know how to help the kids use the special tools.  The aids that are allocated can only get around to all the classes for so many hours per day and there is often more than one special needs kid in a class.

I could keep rambling, but I shall stop now and prepare for my meeting.  Since yesterday I have made a number of phone calls and today I'm having a meeting with my local member.  I'm not going to sit back and let them do this without making them understand what the ramifications are!  Our kids count and our kids matter and for the sake of the bloody budget surplus they are taking their education away from them.  Not to mention the stress they are putting on us and our kids.  If the environment is too hard our kids are going to loose it.  They won't cope and we will be forced to pull them out of schools for their own emotional well being. 

So off I go to war.  If I have to protest on the steps of Canberra I'm going to get these idiots to listen and take responsibility!


  1. We have just found out too, ie. The split placements have been canned by our oh so caring govt? My grandson was to start prep next year 3days mainstream 2 at the special school he's been attending since playgroup. Now my daughter is becoming so stressed trying to find ways to get him in prep for 3days and 2 in some form of special school or similar environment, there seems to be NO way around it, It's seems its full time or keep him home until he's 6, then of course he'd be thrown into yr 1., We too want to try and get the attention of govt.. , thinking of just going straight to Newman. We are just stunned by the callousness of this decision, our little ones have such an uphill battle as it is. Go my dear, you have our support . Ps not sure how you found out, my daughter was mistakenly told at a school she was looking into for our boy. The Special school hasn't said anything yet. When are the schools going to officially tell parents? When they only have weeks to decide? Probably! They'll be too busy going thru what my daughter is to contemplate any action.

    1. The HOSES for our ECDP is a wonderful woman who got the email and immediately called a meeting of all the families to let us know. She then scheduled individual meetings with us all so we could discuss strategies for each of our kids. There was nothing on the email she got (only addressed to HOSES and school principles) about letting families know, so I'd say they have no plans to forwarn families.

      Has your daughter got support of any form from the special school?

      I am putting together some letters to politicians to keep the ball rolling and I plan to see if I can get some support from other families. So I'll let you know how I go.

  2. Which part of Qld are you? We are in Brisbane North. I just found out yesterday-by accident, that prep ecdp was canned. I am emailing our dear premier today and not sure where to go from there-but you are right, something needs to be done!

    1. We are Brisbane North as well. I'll keep updating everyone on what I'm doing and keep spreading the word. I plan to write a letter and send it to as many state and federal politicians as I can think ok. :)

  3. The fun doesn't stop after prep my son is in year 2 can't read or write needs full time support but the school can't offer him that as he has high functioning autism he cant cope woth the sensory input in mainstream class which often leads to behavior and outbursts. Therefore he is only allowed to attend school 2 1/2 hours a day then I home school him I have had to leave my job without any support financially and as he is not intellectually impaired just delayed he cannot attend special school
    I not the only one in this situation, something needs to be done. It's to easy now for the schools to say we just can't offer him the support he requires so I'm sorry he can't be here, where else is there to turn my son turns 7 this week and the only education he is receiving is from me at home which I have had to provide myself as no resources are offered

    1. I have been a teacher in Special Education in Qld for 5 years now...and NO school can tell you that 'we can't offer him the support he requires'....the State schooling system must accept all students no matter what their behavior history or disability category is. If at first it is best for the child's sake to only attend a few hours each day, there must be some sort of plan to increase that time to eventually reach full school days.

    2. After spending the past 18 months working through the system to find a place for Connor I can say the problem isn't that they can't say no, it's that they can't cope with our kids. They have no funding, inadequate training and worse still the environment is so stressful for our kids that they can't learn in it anyway, let alone be happy. Both Connor's speech therapist and psychologist have numerous clients with highly stressed kids who aren't being supported properly. And I know some families personally.

    3. I'm so sorry to hear of your situation 'Not happy', from what I've heard what is happening to you is becoming very common. xxx

  4. Hello all,

    I feel your pain and have your pain, but it is all sounding very contradictory. If the schools aren't able to cater for our kids - what is wrong with special ed institutions? like Autism Qld? and building more?
    1. We live at Coomera - and never had the option of split placement ECDP or a wonderful kindy programme like you all talk about ( we had 2 hrs, 3 times a week at ECDP only for 3 yrs) - I had to pay up to an extra $18,000 support for my boy at a Christian school. on top of fees for prep.
    2. In year 1, we tried to cope with the 4 hrs govn. support as obviously we couldn't afford this long term - and it has gone down hill from there.
    3. we have changed now to a public school and we are in the similar and reverse situation as Not Happy- where there is one child eating up the full time support at my son's school - 30hrs a week - out of classroom support and now there is only 29 hrs left for the remainder 14 kids. Mine is getting 3 only. I am now keeping MY child home for some lessons - my own decision - as he can't cope. This is not your fault, mine or the child's. We will all be pushed to do part time schooling for our child. What message is this sending the child? that they are not good enough to attend like everybody else? this is where a different school is needed. This country is lacking severely.
    5. We almost sold up and moved to Brisbane to go to a SS yrs back, where he could have got split placement and ongoing 24 hrs a week support after that - but just found out that school (on the southside) has now closed their Special Ed Unit and now it is all under the heading of "inclusion support".
    6. It is inclusion support that is the problem. I read that it was decided 15 yrs ago or so - to close half the special schools and make the criteria stricter (ie. limited to intellectual impairment, meaning that all our kids - get sent to mainstream and get most times (only a teacher aid - not a teacher, nor special ed) coming in on occasions. (ours is 3 hrs a week).
    7. Just like (not happy) my son's language problems have spilled over into spelling, reading and writing and understanding most things that are said in a group situation and of course the troubles at lunch times. He really needs every lesson adapted and every exam differentiated - but are they doing this? NO. Not at all. I am doing it for his weekly maths and spelling tests.
    8. My son and most the children I am reading about here - are not coping in Mainstream. They need a middle of the road school. My son is very intelligent and from age 4 could build 10-14 yo lego unaided. But language and socially are the problems. He is now talking (almost fluently compared to where he was - though only scored in the borderline area for his speech skills still.
    We need schools. Special schools - level 2.
    My child doesn't need mainstream (he can't get into special schools) he needs to be with kids like him where he can maybe even be good at something or win at something and feel good about himself.
    cheers all, Vanessa

    notes to all.
    Autism Qld. at Brighton - sound absolutely fantastic!!! They do split placements.
    Autism Qld. at sunnybank - also do split placements but seem to mostly concentrate on the children whose behiavour makes it almost impossible for them to be in class.

    There are 2 other schools I am looking at.

    We need to go to A current Affair as a group.

    I am told the exact same things that Not happy is told. So my child is just in the deep end - starting to get depressed or refusing to go to school.

    Cheers, Vanessa

    1. I talked to Austism Qld Brighton and I discussed it with some therapists. Yes they do split placement, but the cost is high and from what I've heard the service they provide is not that good. I've decided not to go down that path.

      I agree we need to put together all the facts and see if we can get some light shining on this problem!

  5. Hi,

    We have a 4 1/2 year old Son recently diagnosed with High Functioning ASD and have only had our boy in ECDP this year noticing the steps he has taken in 6 months have been huge.

    We are currently looking at Prep for him for next year in Redland City and having looked at multiple options noting he is the "too hard" basket for independent schools and we have serious concerns about just throwing him into a Prep Classroom and hoping for the best!

    I note the QLD government has an e petition website that you can set up via the link to the attached form. If you are going take this further this would be a good starting point and you will have the signatures of my family and friends.

    Best of luck and please let me know once you get something up and running.


    1. After talking to therapists, teachers, social workers, psychologists, schools, doing assessments etc, etc, I'm trying to get Connor into special school. I feel a mainstream school is not a safe enough environment for him. An intelligent child with no concept of danger can wander out of a school and they don't have the staffing or fences to keep him in. He will also get lost in their system, whereas in special school he will get an IEP (as he would in mainstream) but he will be in a class of 6 instead of 25.

      Do you have an advocate to help you? I've engaged a child psychologist to help me with the process and provide reports where needed to get him a better chance to get into special school.

      Yes I will try to get the petition going. It's been a really tough year for me, but I'm still not prepared to just leave it be.