No choice for higher needs students
NO FAMILY wants to pack up and leave friends and family - but that is what it has come to for one local family.
Rebecca Weller's 11-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition called Syngap. It causes multiple issues like autism, epilepsy, vision impairment, intellectual impairment and extreme behavioural issues.
The mother of a child with a higher level of needs, Mrs Weller said she wanted to give her daughter the best education possible.
"In Emerald, there really is only one choice if you have a child with higher needs,” she said.
"We've spent the last five years trying to figure out whether we stay here in the community we love, where our family and friends are, or whether we move somewhere with a special school to get better schooling for our child.
"We'll be moving at the end of the year so our child can get a good education, and for disability services, there are more options.”
However, they are not the only family who has made the tough decision. Mrs Weller said she knew others who had split their families up to relocate their child to somewhere with more services and educational support.
"A lot of them, they need more life skills than trying to stick to the curriculum, which is part of why we want her to be at a special school in high school, to prepare her for life after high school,” Mrs Weller said.
She believes being the centre of the Central Highlands, Emerald does need a special school.
"Emerald is the hub for a lot of other smaller towns around here and when you do have a child with special needs, your options are quite limited as to their education and schooling,” she said.
"I think it is good that people would have the choice as to whether they have their child in a special school or in a mainstream school.
"At the moment there is only one school that can cater for those higher needs children, so I think just having a choice would be great, and also to provide more support for the teachers as well, because it is quite hard for them when they have so many different things to deal with.”
Emerald Christian College principal Graeme Johnston has taken on the task of investigating the feasibility of opening a special school in Emerald for years Prep-Year 12.
If you have a child you think would be eligible for the school email Mr Johnston at firstname.lastname@example.org with the child's age, diagnosis and ranking in the education system (if known).