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Call for Minister Tolley to Respond to Sunnybrae School

Media Release
10 November 2011

Call for Minister Tolley to Respond to Sunnybrae School

Autism New Zealand has today joined the growing call for Minister of Education, Anne Tolley to respond to specific concerns over the future of the Support Class at Sunnybrae School and others like it.

Sunnybrae has developed a highly successful education model which provides personalised support for children with special needs, many of whom have ASD.

Alison Molloy, Chief Executive of Autism New Zealand says, “We fully support the government’s desire for an inclusive education system and we see inclusion as meaning that all children have equal and fair access to education. We recognise that education for disabled children can be very complex. Sunnybrae’s Support Class is providing an education which acknowledges this complexity.”

“The parents, teachers and pupils involved in this programme have full confidence in the quality of support and education at Sunnybrae currently and it seems irrational to abandon something that is clearly working”, added Ms Molloy. “It seems strange that the Minister will not address the specific concerns of the parents and teachers over her decision to change the RTLB structure, effectively forcing the closure of this wonderful resource for their children. This seems especially strange given the Ministry’s stated strategy of making better use of specialist staff and taking a more focused approach to specialist teaching services for sensory needs students.”

Autism is a lifelong developmental disorder that affects a person’s behaviour, communication, socialising skills and sensory issues. It is called a spectrum disorder because it varies from person to person. It is estimated that 1 in 100 people have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the incidence appears to be rising worldwide – that’s an estimated 40,000 New Zealanders. Worldwide surveys have shown that parents of children with autism suffer the highest stress levels of any condition, including terminal illness. It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls.

Started in 1969, today Autism New Zealand has over 6,200 members made up of people with ASD, their family/whanau and health and education professionals. Autism New Zealand aims to provide support, resources and information on autism spectrum disorders to those with these conditions, their family/whanau, caregivers and professionals working with them.


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