Page 3375 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 17 August 2011

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The program will focus on children with disabilities from kindergarten to year 2 in mainstream classes, learning support units and specialist schools. The schools selected to be part of the pilot program are Gowrie primary school, Caroline Chisholm school, Florey primary school, Harrison school, Malkara, Cranleigh and Mother Teresa Catholic school. The project team comprises a team leader; three part-time health professionals, being an occupational therapist, a physiotherapist and a speech pathologist; and four full-time trained therapy assistants.

This program reflects the ACT government’s commitment to children with a disability. Soon I will be announcing another ACT budget initiative, which is the after-school care program for students with a disability. Together, these two programs will make a difference to the lives of the children with a disability and their families. The therapy assistant model will enable children with disabilities to access therapy support through the school day in order to improve functional outcomes for individual children.

The scheme will provide a level of intense intervention required to sustain changes in functioning and engage relevant teaching staff and families in maintaining and obtaining gains for children. The four objectives of the project are to improve the functional outcomes for individual children based on therapy goals identified by a primary therapist; increase the number of children accessing services and enhance skill development in the school setting through therapy assistant work in group and individual sessions; increase the number of opportunities for children to practise and embed therapy goals by therapy assistants working with children one to three times per week; and, finally, to educate and provide support to teachers on the best way to incorporate therapeutic interventions within the classroom setting.

MS PORTER: A supplementary, Mr Speaker.

MR SPEAKER: Yes, Ms Porter.

MS PORTER: Minister, what early feedback about this initiative have you received from key stakeholders such as teachers?

MS BURCH: So far the feedback from parents and schools and the community sector since I announced this initiative of $647,000 in the budget to fund the pilot program has been overwhelmingly positive. This is something that families have welcomed, and this week I had the pleasure of seeing first hand a therapist interacting with students at the Gowrie primary school.

Therapy programs enable these students needing therapy to have regular sessions from staff, who are able to concentrate on enabling that child to attain their individual goals. The Therapy ACT pilot has built on this experience but has extended the model for different settings. Since the commencement of the pilot, all initial responses from the school principals, teachers and families have been very positive.

I refer Ms Porter to an article in the Canberra Times yesterday where an executive teacher said that 30 of his pupils would receive support, and he said that this is a great opportunity for them. He said they have students who might not be able to access

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