SUPPORT: Jacob Lorenzo, 18, from Tweed Heads South struggled to find a special education position when he moved up to the Tweed.
SUPPORT: Jacob Lorenzo, 18, from Tweed Heads South struggled to find a special education position when he moved up to the Tweed. Nikki Todd

Call for more Tweed special ed places

A TWEED Heads student diagnosed with a disability at the age of four is calling for more positions to be opened for special education students on the Tweed.

Jacob Lorenzo, 18, who is graduating this year from Banora Point High School, said life had been tough growing up as a student with autism.

"It's a tough life, we had to fight to get support,” Jacob said.

"I believe every child with a disability deserves support.”

Jacob's mother, Marikka Ebdon, said it had been difficult to secure a position in a special education unit at a secondary school on the Tweed when they first moved to the area from Newcastle in February 2015.

She said after contacting the education minister and education department, she had finally contacted Ability Links - an organisation which advocates for people with a disability - who helped secure an interview at Banora Point High.

While the school had no positions available in its special education unit, it agreed to allow Jacob to attend English classes for an hour a day, twice a week, to help with his social interaction, while Ms Ebdon home-schooled him for the remainder of his curriculum.

"The school really bent over backwards to support Jacob,” she said.

"They were absolutely fantastic, but they didn't have to do it.”

Ms Ebdon said while Jacob was now graduating from school, she would hate for other parents to go through the same.

"I'd love to see that there was a place for every child that needs one; not that there is a limit on it or a specialised number of funding, that there is a place for every child that needs one,” she said.

A NSW Education spokesman said the type and extent of department support for students with disability was determined in consultation with families and according to the student's individual learning needs.

"Support is delivered in various ways, from additional support in mainstream classes to specialist support classes located in schools for students with disability, and in some mainstream schools,” he said.

In 2016, there were 21 specialist support classes in the Tweed local government area able to support more than 200 students with disability, with the number supported by the department varying according to need.

Jacob's call comes as the NSW Government last week launched an inquiry into the provision of education to students with a disability or special needs in government and non-government schools in the state.

Deputy Chair of General Purpose Standing Committee No 3, Natasha Maclaren-Jones, said the inquiry would be broad ranging in nature.

"This is a broad ranging inquiry, which will consider the equitable access to resources for students with disability or special needs in regional and metropolitan areas,” Mrs Maclaren-Jones said.

"The committee will examine the adequacy of existing complaint and review mechanisms within the state's schools systems for dealing with the treatment of children with disability or special needs.

"We want to hear from the students, parents and people with direct experience in the education sector.”

Submissions to the inquiry will close on January 29, 2017, with public hearings to follow.

Visit www.parliament.nsw.

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