Page 4138 - Week 13 - Thursday, 31 October 2013

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outcomes for Canberra’s children and young people. That is precisely what we argued for yesterday, and those on the government benches, including the Greens minister, refused to support it.

The education minister earlier today suggested that she was looking forward to my contribution to the policy debate on learning difficulties, especially dyslexia. With respect to the minister, there was an opportunity yesterday to hear the Liberals policy on autism, and for the third time she rejected it. So it would appear we are damned on this side of the chamber when we offer policy options and damned if we do not.

Those issues aside, there is no question as to the importance of early intervention when children are at risk, irrespective of what that risk might be—whether it is, as we discussed yesterday, the realisation your child has an autism spectrum disorder or, more broadly, where a child is economically disadvantaged, intellectually compromised, physically handicapped or socially challenged. There is a responsibility to provide opportunity for improvement, whether that intervention be through educational support, intensive occupational therapy, family counselling or financial supplement.

Governments at both the territory and federal government level have a range of programs that address the needs of children and young people. As I outlined yesterday and as was outlined earlier today, in the area of learning difficulties a range of programs is available. Are they best practice? Probably. Can they be improved? Clearly.

On the question of early learning difficulties, the opposition last year staged several forums to hear the views of parents who were struggling to find improved learning outcomes for children with learning difficulties, specifically dyslexia and autism. We heard from parents who had moved their children from a state school setting to a non-government setting because their local school was unable to provide the type of additional support they were seeking. We heard of others who had moved interstate and overseas to access what they believed were better prospects for their families.

In respect of dyslexia, we heard of the frustrations of parents with children in ACT schools. The ACT department of education and training did not recognise the diagnosis of dyslexia as a disability for funding. Schools only provided non-targeted learning support for dyslexic students at the principal’s discretion. There was no consistency between schools. Although ACT government schools have literacy and numeracy coordinators, there were no accredited MSL educators registered in the ACT and trained in the appropriate targeted tuition required by dyslexic students.

Individual education plans—IEP—or individual learning plans—ILP—did not provide the necessary help for dyslexic students due to the lack of targeted support and assistance. The task force the minister reported on last month goes a long way to addressing these concerns. But, as I said yesterday in respect of a child’s disability and a parent’s wants and needs, enough is so often never enough.

A key to improved outcomes for children with any sort of inequality is improved opportunity. For children with learning or behavioural issues, one key is to ensure our

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