School puts big effort into student autism program

Zach RelphSouth Western Times

An individually tailored learning program is helping Tuart Forest Primary School students on the autism spectrum flourish in the classroom through a healthy school-home relationship.

Tuart Forest is the only Greater Bunbury school to implement the Positive Partnerships initiative which supports autistic students through evidence-based materials and resources.

Parents and teachers work together to develop a “planning matrix” which adheres to autistic students’ sensory differences to create a supportive learning environment at home and at school.

Assistant deputy Juanita McDermott said the Federal Government-funded program was a step towards creating an autism-friendly school culture.

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“We have 17 students on the autism spectrum and five more waiting a diagnosis. For a school of less than 500 kids that is quite a lot,” Mrs McDermott said.

“The program helps teachers cater to students better by identifying their needs.

“It is about developing partnerships between school, home and other agencies.”

Tarlia Bartsch’s four-year-old son Jaxon has high-functioning autism and is in kindergarten at Tuart Forest.

Mrs Bartsch was involved in the process of developing Jaxon’s planning matrix and said the school’s commitment to helping children on the autism spectrum was reassuring.

“There are little things he is going to do in class, and from a teacher’s perspective need to be understood,” Mrs Bartsch said.

“It gives a lot of peace of mind to know that teachers will have an understanding. It definitely makes me a bit more relaxed.”

Last month, all Tuart Forest staff completed a training workshop with three officials from Positive Partnerships to help them implement the program.

Another session is also scheduled for later this year.

“Our goal will be for all teachers to use knowledge and skills learnt to cater for the kids,” Mrs McDermott said.

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