Disability, learning and support

What are special learning needs?

Children with special learning needs refers to children with learning difficulties, a behaviour disorder and/or a disability. These children have diverse abilities and learning needs. Parents or caregivers are often the first to notice that their child's development is delayed or that their child is having problems at school.

The term disability includes children with an intellectual disability, physical disability, vision impairment, hearing impairment, language disorder, mental health conditions or autism.

Children with learning difficulties experience difficulties with learning in one or more areas of the curriculum. These difficulties may vary in cause, nature, intensity and duration.

If you have concerns about your child's development or progress at school, it is important to discuss your concerns with relevant professionals such as, in the first instance, the school principal, teacher or school counsellor. Your family doctor or your child's paediatrician may also be of assistance in this process. Interpreter services and Aboriginal education assistants are available to assist parents or caregivers to obtain relevant information and support where required.

Identification and assessment

Identification of a child with a disability or a learning difficulty can occur at any age or stage of the child's development.

Access to specialist resources is facilitated through the student's school.  For some students with disabilities, the type and nature of the disability need to be initially assessed and confirmed using disability criteria (Ms word 40kB) through the school counselling service. For these students, a range of specialist services related directly to the needs of the student can be sought

If you believe your child has special learning needs that require additional assistance please contact the principal at your child's school. The principal will consider your child's needs in consultation with the school's Learning and Support Team.

The Learning and Support Team assists classroom teachers to address the educational needs of students with a disability, learning difficulty or behaviour disorder. Parents or caregivers have a vital role to play in the work of the Learning and Support Team through discussing and planning for their child's needs.

Enrolment options for students with disabilities

Students with a confirmed disability may be enrolled in any one of the following:

  • regular classes (subject to standard enrolment procedures)
  • support classes in regular schools (subject to placement panel procedures)
  • special schools (subject to placement panel procedures)

The school principal, in consultation with the school's Learning and Support Team, will assist you to find the right schooling option for your child, taking into account your choice, your child's specific additional learning and support needs and proximity to local specialist services.

Where a child is enrolled in a support class or a special school this is done through a process known as a placement panel. 

Use the school locator to find your local school or a support class in regular or special schools.

In addition to special classes and special schools, the following services are available in all public schools:

  • students who experience difficulties in basic areas of learning and behaviour are supported through learning and support in their local school.
  • the integration funding support program is a targeted support program for eligible school aged students with confirmed disabilities enrolled in a regular class and attending on a full time basis.
  • itinerant support teachers provide support for students with hearing and/or vision impairment and their teachers.

In addition, local educational services staff provide support to schools.


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