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Choosing a mainstream school

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Mainstream schools

Going to a mainstream school can help young people get on the road to open employment sooner.

While there is not much data on employment outcomes for students with intellectual disability in Australia, the data that is available shows that students from mainstream schools have higher rates of employment than students in special schools.

Mainstream schooling can seem like a challenging journey. However, the research comparing mainstream and specialist education, shows that young people with intellectual disability in mainstream schools:

  • get better social and academic skills
  • are more likely to be independent
  • have more of a say in their own lives
  • tend to make more friends outside their family.

Each of these things can help people with intellectual disability in open employment. Young people who have families and teachers with high expectations, are also more likely to grow up expecting a life like other young people. This includes expecting to have a job when they finish school.

Specialist schools

Unfortunately, many families face barriers to using mainstream schools. Families may be told that their son or daughter will be “better off” in a special school. There is evidence that young people at specialist schools feel included and happy at school. However, there is also evidence that shows many end up in segregated settings, like day programs or Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs).  

Don’t worry if your son or daughter isn’t in a mainstream school. There are things you can do at any age to help them find a job in open employment. So, while it’s good to begin early, it’s also never too late.

Getting help

Australian young people with disability have the right to education in the same way as young people without disability. Whatever path you decide, it’s your young person’s right to get the support they need. This can include support staff, equipment, materials or modifications. You can read more about the Government’s disability standards for education on the Department of Education, Skills and Employment website.

If the school you choose won’t accept your young person or provide the support they need, you can get support from an advocacy organisation to negotiate with the school or make a complaint for you. You can use the Disability Advocacy Finder to find an advocacy organisation near you. Peer support groups and peer-led organisations can also help you understand, choose and get the best support. There are links below to organisations that may be able to help you.

Open employment is when people with and without disability work together in regular jobs.
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Day programs provide activities for groups of people with disability. These activities can include recreation and developing general skills.
Read more
An Australian Disability Enterprises (ADE) is a type of employment support for people with disability who need significant support to work.
Read more

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