Parents discovering how to recognise and harness their children’s ‘different kind of brilliance’ was one of the many innovative ideas 130 parents heard at the Disability Policy and Program’s Parent Conference. The conference was opened by the Minister for Education, the Hon John Gardner at the Hilton Adelaide on 25th September 2019. The conference was for parents and carers of children and young people with disability in preschools and schools.
Three Goodwood Primary School students did a fabulous job of reading the Acknowledgement of Country which was followed by the expressive interpretation of the Lion King by the Klemzig Primary School Signing Choir. The Klemzig children finished their performance with a moving rendition of I am Me.
Kerry Parker, Assistant Director, Disability and Learning challenged participants in her session, Inclusive Hearts, to think about inclusion from various perspectives, consider where we are up to as a department and what we need to do next to be a more inclusive education system. As quoted by parents of what they learnt from the day is that you need to “have and inclusive heart and mind”, “inclusion is high on the agenda” and “the (acknowledgement) of efforts and future plans of the Department for Education for inclusive education and support”
As a parent of children with disability Kirsty Russell, Positive Special Needs Parenting captured the audience with her keynote “Recognising and harnessing your child’s different kind of brilliance”(Youtube) She challenged parents to look past their child’s diagnosis, systemic negativity, their own expectations and emotions so they can find their child’s passion, their uniqueness. To have the school, their friends and community on their side by developing strong relationships, so their children can be the best they can and show everyone just what they can do.
A range of workshops provided for parents and carers an opportunity to hear about:
- the challenge of planning transition and pathways – Annette Creer and Niki Baratosy, Senior Leaders Transition Centres
- supporting children with dyslexia at home – Sandy Russo, Director SPELD
“My son was diagnosed with dyslexia last term. Having no understanding or knowledge about this learning disability. I know have a better understanding about his disability and where to go from here.”
- preparing for difficult conversations (pdf) they may have with preschool and school staff when meeting about their child – Kirsty Russell, Parent, Positive Special Needs Parenting
- how children with complex needs use augmentative and alternative communication (pdf) to access and participate in the curriculum – Jennifer Young, Adelaide West State-wide outreach Service Teacher
- how Hackham East Primary School supports students with “Autism Spectrum to build self-regulation skills through interoception”. The implementation of interoception across the school has had a positive impact on student’s ability to self-regulate, behaviour and engagement in learning – Sally Slattery, Principal and Tanya Black, School Services Office
Julia Goldsworthy and Sophie Scott, Senior Advisors, Inclusive Education Support Program (IESP) informed of the new funding model for children and students with disability. For many parents it was an opportunity to hear about the principles that underpin the model, what it involves, the process and the upcoming release of the online application form.
Dr Wenn Lawson, Senior Advisor, Complex Support in his Living a good autistic life (Youtube) (pdf) workshop gave insight into his experiences and provided strategies to assist people with autism. Wenn’s workshop was exceptionally well received with one parent stating that it was “Amazing, reflective, introspective and incredible”.
The workshop Listening to children (pdf) was an opportunity to hear the Commissioner for Children and Young People, Helen Connolly talk about her role as the first Commissioner in our state. One parent summarised Helen’s role as being “The vital transforming power of Helen’s child centred perspective”. The voices of children with disability and how they can be ‘heard’ continues to be an area which needs to be considered. It could be beneficial to further explore this topic at one of our future parent forums or conferences.
The Q & A session (Youtube) was an opportunity for parents and carers to ask questions a panel comprised of Kirsty Russell, Helen Connolly, Kerry Parker, Stuart Kitto, Sandy Russo and Wenn Lawson. The “free and open opportunity for Q&A with honest discussions” was appreciated by the audience.
The Parent Forum Reference Group worked with Disability Policy and Programs staff to plan and assist at the conference. The very active parent members took leadership on the day with Wendy Hosking and Kate Annells acting as MC’s and Lisa Moore, Kelly Lakeman, Eleanor Bersten and Narelle Highland facilitating the workshops.
The Inclusive Heart pre-conference session and the Q&A closing session were successfully introduced this year at the suggestion of the Parent Forum Reference Group. SPELD (SA) Inc., S for Sensory, Dental Services SA, Siblings Australia Inc. and Special Education Resource Unit (SERU) displays were visited by many parents during the day.
At the closure of the day the parents were asked if they would provide feedback through an online Survey. The information will be used to support the planning of future forums and conferences. Several of the responses have been quoted in this article, but overwhelmingly the parents appreciated the time to hear up to date information, meet with people who are formulating policy and processes, ask questions about new initiatives such as the One Plan, funding model, listen to different approaches such as interoception and augmentative communication and have the opportunity to network and speak with fellow parents.
We received great feedback on the day ‘Parent Voice – thoughts on the Parent Forums and conferences‘ as well from our survey:
“I found it a great opportunity to think about and feel more prepared as I explore the path of navigating my child with additional needs starting school.”
“Thank you very much for today, I came away thinking what a great opportunity for parents to find out information, to feel valued and to learn where to go for more support if needed. All presenters were explicit, well-paced and answered all questions I needed to find out.”
“We are being heard as parents”
The power point presentations, video of some sessions and web links to speakers will be available as they are finalised. Our first country forums will be held in Port Augusta on 6 November and Berri the 7 November 2019. Some spotlight sessions are also being planned with SERU in the coming weeks as a result of survey suggestions and conference requests.
The dates and links to the next forums and conference will be emailed directly to parents on our mailing list. If you would like to be added to the circulation list please send email request to Education.ParentForumConference@sa.gov.au .
We would like to thank the Klemzig Primary School Signing Choir and staff, the presenters, Parent Forum Reference Group, staff and most importantly the parents and carers who gave their time to attend and made the day a huge success.