This week’s Mailbox Monday post is from a parent whose child needs special support at school.

Sarah’s question below is very specific to her situation but, as I started asking expats parents I know in Sydney and doing a few searches online, I found that it was hard to find good information on Asperger in Australia. The few sites I did find were not updated on a regular basis. For this reason, I thought it might be a good idea to post the information that I did find here on SMG so that others having trouble would be able to find it.

I also wanted to post this so that it would, at least, hopefully, start a conversation on Aspergers in Sydney and a place for people to exchange information.

If you have any other resources to add, please do in the comment section below the post instead of emailing me directly. This way everyone reading the post will be about to see and access the information too.

But before we get to the question and answer portion of this post…

What is Mailbox Mondays?

Every Monday I pick a question from you along with my reply straight out of my inbox to share with everyone here on Sydney Moving Guide.

I don’t promise to have all the answers, but I will do my best to point you in the right direction or help you with your research as I know there is a lot of noise out there on the interwebs and good resources are hard to find.

The aim of Mailbox Mondays is to start conversations on topics you want to know about. So please leave a comment, or ask a question, or share more info from your experience living in Australia in the comment section below.

Alright, let’s get started.

Today’s Question:

Hi, Lauren.

Do you have any tips for schools that support Asperger children?

We have a 12-year-old boy with Aspergers. He can cope in mainstream school with the right support ( ie learning support, small classes, etc) – schools with strong creative arts and IT programs would be great.

I searched many times online but haven’t yet found a conclusive answer.

Any help would be much appreciated.

Cheers.

Sarah (BTW, I do change all the names for the Mailbox Monday posts so if you want to send me a question don’t worry about my using your real name or posting your contact info. :-) )

Lauren’s Reply

Hi Sarah,

Sorry for the late reply to this. I’m done some research online and asked a couple of friends that have kids if they knew of any resources for you. And, well, I’m getting a lot of blank stares back and not really any good solid info.

I sent out a couple of emails to some of the NSW education sites for some help. I’ll get back to you when/if I hear anything back but for now here are some references I found.

Autism Spectrum

You may have already come across this site in your searches but thought I would include it as I think it might be a good resource or contact for you. Here’s a link to the contact form. I would go ahead and fill it out explaining your situation and ask what schools they suggest or services they offer.

Diocese of Sydney

Many people go with private catholic schools when moving to Sydney especially those with 457 visas as the cost of tuition for public schools in NSW is $5,000 a year and for a little bit more their kids can go to private schools that are usually more accommodating for children from overseas. Here are the contact emails and phone (if you need to Skype chat).

It’s worth sending out an email asking what kind of programs the schools have and class size etc.

Contact Debbie Gilmore: Head Office (02) 9568 8209 debbie.gilmre(at)ceosyd.catholic.edu.au
Inner West: Jenni Trew (02) 9643 3650 jenni.trew(at)ceosyd.catholic.edu.au
South Sydney: Mary Cloren (02) 9772 7000 mary.cloren(at)ceosyd.catholic.edu.au
East Sydney: Vanessa Smith (02) 8344 3000 vanessa.smith(at)ceosyd.catholic.edu.au

Schools to get in touch with

It looks like “special needs” get lumped in with “disabilities” and Aspergers with autism in general. You’ve mentioned that your son is fine in a mainstream school with the right support. I’m thinking that these schools might be geared more towards a higher level of support but don’t know for sure. The only way to really know is to ask them so I thought I should go ahead and list them here so you can contact them if you want. If anything, they maybe able to refer you to another school that is a better fit.

  • Woodbury is in Baulkham Hills, not a bad area for families. It’s an independent school for children with Autism aged 4 to 15 years.
  • Located in Gladesville, Giant Steps is for students up to 18 years who have a primary diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. I’m not that familiar with Autism and don’t know what Autism Spectrum Disorder is exactly but again, could be just a point of contact or reference.
  • Epping Boys High School is a performing arts school with an Autism Support Unit. You mentioned creative arts in your email so thought this might be an option. Maybe?
  • Arranounbai School is a school for children with disabilities that focuses on arts, music and technology.

A couple of other options for finding more specific info:

One is the DEC International Contact Form here.

This would be good as you can ask them questions directly and someone usually gets back to you. This is meant for temporary visa holders but even if you don’t have a 457 visa they can still help you out, or you can just say you do, but I don’t think it matters. Be sure to give them all the details about your son like birthdate, age, year in currently and whatever else you think they might need to know.

Facebook Groups

I did a quick search on Facebook to see if there were any Sydney Aspergers Parenting Groups and didn’t find any that specific but there are two that are more general, for all of Australia: Asperger’s Support Group Australia and Autism / Aspergers Action Group (Australia).

It is a closed group which means that any comments or questions you ask the group will not show up on your Facebook news feed. A good thing if you have yet to tell friends and family that you’re moving to Australia.

Ok, that’s all I got! Sorry, I couldn’t find anything more specific to Sydney.

This a really great question.

I would like to use it in my Mailbox Monday post if it’s alright with you.

Either way, I’ll be in touch when I hear back from the emails I sent out. Fingers crossed that I hear back at all. Could take awhile.

If you come across any info that you think others might also find helpful, can you pass it on to me? I’ll add it to the post.

All the best,
Lauren

Followup email:

Hi Sarah,

I heard back from one of the emails I sent out about schools.

They said your first port of call should be contacting ASPECT, the state autism organization.

You may or may not need a “new” diagnosis, it depends on the state rules and so on.

As far as schools, it will be tricky because of the diagnosis, the school might want to have that “new” diagnosis first before accepting your son.

Sorry, this new info isn’t that much help. I’ll let you know if anything else shows up in my inbox.

All the best,
Lauren

Click here to check out other Mailbox Monday Questions from Sydney Moving Guide readers.