In Australian schools, students diagnosed with a specific learning disability, such as dyslexia, are not eligible for any individual government funding or allocated teacher assistant time. Only general school based funding is provided to the school and therefore it is up to the school how they use the resources/funding they currently have available to them to support students with a learning disability.
However, students adversely affected by learning disabilities are entitled under the Disability Discrimination Act, 1992 (DDA) to both a differentiated curricula and differentiated assessment. The aim of the DDA is to ensure that all students are provided with access to the curriculum and are given the opportunity to demonstrate their skills, knowledge and understandings, on the same basis as their peers. The Australian Disability Standards for Education (2005) provides guidance to teachers, school administrators and parents on their rights and responsibilities with respect to the DDA.
In general, all education providers must comply with the DDA and Disability Standards for Education. The Standards give students and prospective students with a disability the right to education and training opportunities on the same basis as students without a disability. Education providers have an obligation to make changes to reasonably accommodate the needs of a student with a disability. Under the DDA, “disability” includes those conditions that result in a person learning differently from other people. This is legally recognised as applying to students with diagnosed learning disabilities.
Under the Disability Standards for Education, education providers are required to:
- Make reasonable adjustments to assist a student with a learning disability to participate in education on the same basis as other students;
- Consult with relevant people in order to understand the impact of a student’s learning disability and to determine whether any adjustments or changes are needed to assist the student; and,
- Develop and implement strategies to eliminate discrimination of people with learning disabilities.
Reasonable adjustments may include classroom accommodations which are:
- Adaptations and modifications of classroom practices (teaching approach, materials used, speed of delivery, method of teaching and the use of assistive technology);
- Strategies that do not reduce educational standards and requirements; and,
- The use of alternative assessment procedures which take into account students’ needs.
Without accommodations, students will not be able to access the curriculum and will consequently learn less than their peers. They will also not be able to demonstrate their skills and understandings and they are more likely to experience a high level of frustration and anxiety, reducing their chances of learning even further.
It is important to note that education providers, such as schools, are required only to make reasonable adjustments, which are considered appropriate if it takes into account the student’s learning needs while balancing the interests of all parties affected, including those of the student with the disability, the education provider, staff and other students. In other words, education providers are exempted from making adjustments that would impose unjustifiable hardship on them such as significant financial costs.
A copy of the Disability Standards for Education 2005 and a selection of fact sheets that provide information to assist students, parents and schools to understand the Standards and ensure that students with disability can access and participate in school education are available at https://education.gov.au/disability-standards-education.