Recognising the need for cultural change in its schools, the South Australian Government is set to invest $28.8 million to employ an Autism Lead Teacher in every public primary school in the state, starting in 2023. It has also appointed Emily Bourke to be the first government minister in the country to take on the responsibility of ensuring the Autism community is represented in decisions about education.
I am a mother of three, so I know that every parent and caregiver wants their child to reach their individual potential. But I do not have lived experience with Autism. That’s why I will establish the Autism Education Advisory Group and work with the Autism community to consult, to reform, and to make change. Together, we can get it done.
Emily Bourke, 15 August 2022
Jeanette Kesser, Torrens University’s Program Director for Education, believes this initiative should be adopted right around Australia. ‘The initiative from the South Australian Government to have Autism Lead Teachers across all primary school with specialised training will empower teachers to provide best practice, which is a whole school approach for autism.’
Torrens University leads the way in Autism Teacher training
Our Education courses offer the specialised training schools look for when recruiting staff to meet the rising demand for Autism Teachers. The Master of Education – Special Education and Graduate Certificate of Education in Autism are designed to equip our education graduates with the necessary skills and knowledge to create inclusive learning environments for students with autism.
Using a ‘person first’ approach, the Graduate Certificate of Education in Autism will help you to develop your understanding of autism. Our lecturers will show you why it’s important to shift away from many traditional views and adopt contemporary, inclusive education practices.
A Master of Education (Special Education) prepares you to support students with a range of special educational needs in mainstream classrooms. It highlights three distinct streams: Autism, Mental Health and Learning, with the Autism stream providing you with advanced skills in supporting people with autism.
Autism education is a national issue
Currently, people with autism are half as likely to complete year 10 than the general population, and three times more likely to be unemployed than other people with disabilities.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, over 200,000 Australians are on the autism spectrum and one in four Australians has a family member with autism. Autism is also the largest primary disability group in the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme). South Australia sits above the national average, with 39% of South Australian NDIS participants being on the autism spectrum.
The SA Government’s action has a wide reach for the education sector
We are moving beyond talking about creating awareness. We are building knowledge. We have made major commitments with the aim of implementing a whole-of-government autism inclusion strategy, starting with our schools.
SA Premier Peter Malinauskas, 15 August 2022
The role of Autism Inclusion Teachers
In an announcement about the initiative, the Department of Education, SA, explained:
The Autism Inclusion Teacher will:
- Provide support to their fellow educators on how to best support and educate students with autism
- Drive improved practice relating to autism that works for their school.
Appointing an Autism Inclusion Teacher in every primary school will support children and young people with autism to have the best start to their schooling. The department will monitor the outcomes of the Autism Inclusion Teacher initiative to inform any future expansion of the role, including for high schools.
The demand for Autism Teachers is sure to increase in South Australia, as well as in other states and territories as teachers, parents and governments closely watch the work of Minister Bourke and the impact the Autism Lead Teachers have in the state’s primary schools.
A career as an Autism Lead Teacher will give you the opportunity to generate positive change and shape your local community.