Education for children with autism
Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) has been providing educational services for children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) since 1966. Our educational program for school-aged students with an ASD has grown to become amongst the largest in the world.
Through our network of eight independent schools, we provide autism specific evidence-based programs for children from the age of four years. Our goal is to help students develop the skills to become as independent as possible and to enable them to succeed in the wider community.
We tailor our learning environments to the special needs of students with an ASD. Class sizes are small with a high teacher to student ratio. All classes include a teacher and a teacher's aide.
Aspect Schools operate from over 50 locations and cater to 800 students. We employ more than 330 teachers and teachers' aides.
Transition is the goal
We aim to prepare students for transition to educational environments that are not autism-specific. These settings include mainstream schools and support classes, or special schools in Department of Education and Communities, Catholic and independent schools.
The decision for a student to transition to a more general education setting is made as part of their Individual Education Plan.
Aspect Comprehensive Approach for Education
Our specialised, autism-specific intensive educational service is based on a particular approach we have developed. Known as the Aspect Comprehensive Approach for Education, this approach recognises the educational needs of all school-age children on the autism spectrum and includes a specialised curriculum with a focus on skills training, underpinned by individual assessment and planning.
The curriculum for our Aspect Comprehensive Approach for Education is based upon the core competencies of autism, including social, communication, sensory, learning and behavioural needs which are integrated into the NSW Board of Studies curriculum.
Our innovative approach recognises the important role of environmental supports, structured learning, positive behaviour support and transition. Key elements of the approach include the use of learning support teams (e.g. speech pathologists, occupational therapists, family counsellors/psychologists and teachers), family involvement and staff training. Another major factor is our collaborative approach to transition to more inclusive educational placements that prepares both the students and the receiving school.
We have based these key Aspect Comprehensive Approach for Education elements on the guidelines for sound comprehensive programs established by the New York State Department of Health in 1999. They are also supported by the American National Research Council (NRC, 2001) report that summarised the evidence of the effectiveness of comprehensive programs and recommended the inclusion of a range of key elements for education and intervention.
We are constantly seeking to strengthen our approach by researching other evidence-based methods. For example, we have trialled aspects of Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication-handicapped Children (TEACCH) and evaluated the use of Pivotal Response Training (PRT), an applied behaviour analysis approach, within our educational program. The successful elements of these interventions have been incorporated into the Aspect Comprehensive Approach for Education.
Each Aspect School consists of a variety of classes. There are classes located at our administrative base sites and also a range of satellite classes located at other schools.
A satellite class is an autism-specific class operated by one of our eight Aspect Schools but located in either a NSW Department of Education & Communities or a Catholic mainstream school.
We developed this highly successful, autism specific satellite class model to cater for our students who may benefit from a mainstream education setting. The type of placement we offer our students is directly related to their individual skill development and support needs.
Satellite classes can be an important step in the transition of our students who demonstrate the necessary skills. Each of our eight schools has a suite of infants and primary satellite classes. Some Aspect Schools also have secondary satellite classes.
Regional groups of satellite classes are located in the Riverina (Wagga Wagga and Albury) as part of the Aspect Riverina School and on the Far North Coast (Alstonville and Mullumbimby) as part of the Aspect Macarthur School.
We continually evaluate the Aspect Educational Service to make sure that our programs are achieving positive outcomes for students and families.
Recent findings indicated that 21% of our students transition successfully from Aspect Schools each year (Aspect schools transitioned 156 students in 2010). Of the students surveyed, 95.8% were still in the same setting 12 months after transition and were able to be supported successfully in a less autism specific setting.
We have also recently examined the outcomes for students transitioning from an Aspect satellite class. These findings indicated that the average length of stay in a satellite class was 22 months, with 98.5% of students going on to transition to mainstream schools after that time.
Additional school support services
Another way we support the inclusion of students in mainstream educational settings is through a specialist autism intervention outreach service provided by each Aspect School.
Aspect Educational Outreach offers a diverse range of consultancy, group social skills, peer education and diagnosis disclosure programs as well as school in-service professional development and customised training for parents and professionals. This service complements the transition of students from Aspect Schools to more generalised educational settings and continues to support students once they are in those new settings.
Contact Aspect Educational Outreach to discuss referral, training or other services.
Families with children at Aspect schools or on an Aspect School waiting list can also access a variety of additional professional services delivered by our learning support teams. click here for more information (pdf 115kb)
These services are offered in addition to the existing school educational program. The Aspect professionals who deliver this service are part of our schools' learning support teams so they have a sound knowledge of our innovative approach, and also the day to day activities and needs of students with an ASD.
Your local Aspect School can provide more information on these therapy services, including fees.
How to enrol in an Aspect School
Aspect Schools are funded in part by the NSW Department of Education and Communities which has specific criteria for placement. In line with requirements from the NSW Department of Education and Communities, to be eligible for placement in one of Aspect's schools, prospective students must have the following:
- a current diagnosis from a specialist medical practitioner or clinical psychologist, which is not more than 12 months old; and
- a current standardised cognitive or developmental assessment (e.g. IQ Testing, Griffiths, WISC-IV, WPPSI-III, Stanford Binet V), which is not more than 2 years old.
We hold regular enrolment information sessions at each Aspect School to answer your questions and provide enrolment application forms. Contact your nearest Aspect School or the Aspect Autism Information Line for details.
Enrolment applications are assessed and approved by an Aspect Schools Enrolment committee.
An application is made for an Aspect School rather than a specific class. Our School's professional staff decide which class is best suited to the educational needs of the student.
Requests for applications and referrals to schools may be made either by parents or by service providers in consultation with parents.
A non-refundable processing fee is required for each application submitted. An appeal process is available should a student be deemed ineligible for placement.
A student's placement at one of our Schools is partially funded by the state and federal governments. However, these contributions do not cover all the costs of our specialised intensive approach to autism education and to preparing our students for transition to a more general educational setting. The balance of the cost of each place is met through school fees, which are subject to annual review.
Included in the school fees is a compulsory building levy to help us maintain and continue to improve our schools.
We provide a discounted school fee for any of our students who are siblings of an existing student.
Our current fee schedule is available from your local Aspect School or from our website. Fees are payable by direct debit or credit card. Click here for school fees brochure (pdf 60kb)
Aspect is a not for profit organisation, with deductible gift recipient status endorsed by the Australian Taxation Office. We rely on community support to be able to offer assistance to our students' families in relation to the payment of School fees.
With this support, we are able to make sure that our students receive the best possible educational programs and at the same time grow our services to meet the ever increasing need, particularly in regional areas.
We are also able to offer a limited number of sponsored places for eligible students, subject to relative need and availability. This helps us broaden access to Aspect School services for those students whose families would otherwise not be able to afford the annual Aspect School fees.
We know too, that exceptional circumstances can arise for our students' families and that this may make it difficult to meet their obligations. In these cases, our families may be able to apply for fee reduction for a short period of time.
Conditions outlined above are subject to change.
Download Aspect schools brochure
Aspect Central Coast School
Aspect Hunter School
Aspect Macarthur School
Aspect Riverina School
Aspect South East Sydney School
Aspect South Coast School
Aspect Vern Barnett School
Aspect Western Sydney School