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Tuesday, 16 August 2011
Page: 8245

Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (21:50): I have previously spoken in this parliament about a unique school in my electorate of Ryan: Glenleighden School. Glenleighden is the only school of its kind providing invaluable support, assistance and education for children with a serious disability. Catering for children with severe speech and language impairment, they provide a multidisciplinary program involving a range of specialist therapies within an educational setting.

Glenleighden School provides invaluable services. Having been a supporter of the school for many years, I know just how important it is to children and families who live with primary language disorder. Primary language disorder is a debilitating disability that severely impairs a child's capacity to communicate and participate in schooling and life in general. The difficulties children with PLD face in dealing with the complexities of language impact dramatically on their overall development particularly their capacity to access an education curriculum. PLD children struggle with learning, can be easily distracted, are readily given to frustration, and can be reluctant to learn new skills. In short, it is a disability that has a significant lifelong impact on a child. Not being able to communicate, to understand others and to deal with the complexities of life in general is a very serious disability. The Gillard government do not agree with this. They do not recognise children with PLD as eligible for their flying start for children program, leaving these children and their families in limbo as Glenleighden struggles to raise its own funds even to continue to operate, let alone meet increasing demands. This is exacerbated by the Queensland Bligh Labor government. As the My School website reveals, the Glenleighden School is the most poorly funded special education facility in all of Queensland.

Both Vikki Rose Graydon of the Glenleighden School and I have written to numerous ministers regarding this lack of recognition that sees PLD children not covered by the flying start program; however, no minister has been able to provide an answer as to why the disability is not recognised or indeed why Glenleighden receives significantly less funding per student than any other independent school and other special assistance schools around Australia. No minister can explain why Glenleighden, the only school of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, must charge their students' families higher fees for a service that they cannot get anywhere else simply because they do not get enough support and recognition from the government at any level.

It was interesting to note, however, in Minister Garrett's response that the government has proudly told Glenleighden that children with a disability will soon have access to services such as occupational therapy as part of their education. Glenleighden has been in operation for 30 years and offers not only occupational therapies but also physiotherapy, psychology, speech pathology, music therapy and other specialised, multidisciplinary approaches to ensure children have the best chance of reaching their potential.

I have seen the outcomes of Glenleighden's work. There have been 30 years of quiet achievement for their students, who are seemingly so often overlooked as their impairment is not always physical. It seems, perhaps because of this quiet achievement, that Glenleighden itself is now being overlooked. That is why they are speaking up. Vikki Rose Graydon, Cae Ashton, Bruce Grundy and the entire team at the school have taken up the challenge to have language disorders classified nationally as a disability. It is vital that this school receive enough funding to continue its work.

There is no cure for neurological based language disorders but appropriate support and therapy can significantly accelerate the development of language and cognitive skills. Most importantly, it is believed that the earlier therapy begins the better the results achieved. This is why Glenleighden needs adequate funding. Parents, having finally discovered the root of their child's impairment, should not then have to face the stress of an unaffordable education. The Glenleighden School, which does so much, should not have to struggle to accept a child in need because its funds are already stretched too thin. This Gillard Labor government must recognise primary language disorder with a national disability classification and give the Glenleighden School and its students a fair go.