Teachers call for expansion of new autism program following North Mandurah Primary School's success

Western Australian education minister Sue Ellery has praised the work of North Mandurah Primary School's 'Specialised Learning Program for Autism'.

The program, implemented at the start of the 2019 school year, has already proven to be successful after just a term and a half in effect.

Ms Ellery said she was pleased the school had made such impressive progress so quickly.

"It's early days, but I've been advised the program is seeing really positive results," she said.

"Specialist teachers provide intensive support to students with autism based on the best-known teaching techniques."

North Mandurah is the only school in the Peel region to pilot the Education Department initiative this year, with three classes of Kindergarten to year 6 students taking part.

Throughout the state, the program is currently in place in just 13 schools including five high schools and eight primary schools.

But teachers at North Mandurah Primary School are calling for an expansion of the program to help more children with autism.

Year 3-6 teacher Tilly Hindmarsh said the results spoke for themselves.

"The kids are doing really well. We've already seen them make a lot of progress and they're settling in with their mainstream peers in classes for things like art and sport and science," she said.

"I absolutely feel like it should be implemented in more schools because the feedback we get from parents is so great.

"More kids should have this opportunity."

Year 3-6 teaching assistant Annette Marriner agreed with her colleague, adding that the quick response to the new program had surprised many of the staff.

"We did so much training but actually putting it in practice and seeing the development in the kids in such a short period of time has been amazing," she said.

"It has taken me back how quick the kids have responded and their progress."

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Even mainstream classroom teacher Paula Emery said the program has positively impacted her cohort of year 4-5 students.

"The thing I like the most is the fact that the mainstream kids are seeing that yeah, these kids do have autism but they are still kids just like them," she said.

"They have become far more aware of kids with disabilities and more accepting, it's fantastic.

"If any of the kids see somebody left out now, they go and ask them to join them whereas before they might've just ignored them.

"I'm learning so much as well - the teachers from those classes bring a whole heap of new games."

Ms Ellery said the Education Department were already preparing to welcome the program into a number of new secondary schools for 2020.

"Another three schools will start the program next year, including Coondanup College," she said.

"Schools are chosen based on need and each primary school selected is in close proximity to a secondary school that also offers the program - this provides students with a seamless kindergarten to Year 12 program.

"We constantly review programs in our schools and if there is a need to expand them further."

North Mandurah Primary School program coordinator Debbie Hawthorn said the program was unique in the way it provided individualised learning for every student.

"It starts off really intensively and highly staffed in the early intervention program and then it is more about students' independence and being able to navigate themselves around their work," she said.

"The set up in the early childhood intervention room is all about one-on-one and support but then those students spend time in their mainstream classrooms as and when it suits their individual needs.

"It is really based around the child's needs and I think that is what is really unique about it - it means we can address every child with an individualised program."