Increasing numbers of Western Australian children with disabilities are enjoying the benefits of a full-time education.
More than 4,000 children with disabilities now attend regular State schools and the 20 education support schools, centres and units in WA.
Disability Services Minister Eric Ripper said today that Education Week, which started on Sunday, was an appropriate time to recognise the considerable advances which have been made in integrating children with disabilities into the State education system, and in providing specialist services where required.
Mr Ripper said the Gladys Newton School in Balga, attended by about 120 children with disabilities, was an excellent example of the successes achieved, and had won awards for curriculum development. The creative artwork of Gladys Newton pupils was today displayed at the Mirrabooka Shopping Centre, where pupils from the school also performed songs in sign language.
In the State Budget, the Government allocated $24.2 million for specialist teaching for the 3,000 children in education support facilities, and $2.4 million for support to the 1,000 children with disabilities in mainstream schools.
The Budget allocated an additional $450,000 for school therapy services to help pupils with disabilities, as promised in the Social Advantage package.
"Before 1984, the two per cent of children with more severe disabilities, were not catered for in the school system," Mr Ripper said.
"They could not attend classes but, under Labor Government policy, all children with disabilities have not only been given access to schooling, but have been increasingly integrated into mainstream classrooms. This benefits both the children, and their classmates through better appreciation that people with disabilities are individuals first."
The Minister said a classic example of successful integration was the Wellstead School, north of Albany. Two children with hearing impairment were able to remain at the school because teachers, students and parents decided to learn how to sign to communicate with them.
"This meant the two children were able to remain at their school, instead of having to leave their family homes to attend a specialist centre in Perth. The whole school benefited by learning a new form of communication," Mr Ripper said.
Mr Ripper said this special integration was building on an increasing appreciation, in the broader community, of the right of people with disabilities to live full, active and independent lives.