IT’S been a big few days of controversy for One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson.
On Wednesday, she told parliament that students with disabilities should be removed from mainstream classrooms because they put a strain on teachers and schools.
“These kids have a right to an education by all means,” she said.
Students with disabilities are putting a strain on teachers and schools, Pauline Hanson told parliament. Photo: Andrew Meares
“But if there is a number of them, these children should go into a special classroom and be… given that special attention because most of the time the teachers spend so much time on them.
“They forget about the child who … wants to go ahead [in] leaps and bounds in their education.”
Labor MP Emma Husar, whose son Mitch, 10, is autistic, quickly hit back at the comments.
Education Minister Simon Birmingham repeatedly refused to condemn the commentson Thursday, while Senator Hanson maintained she was right and said she had been taken out of context.
This did not stopshockwaves ripplingacross the country, and manyparents and experts have joined in the condemnationof Senator Hanson’s comments.
►Autism Tasmania called Senator Hanson’s comments “reprehensible”. “We cannot stand back and not challenge such hurtful and uninformed comments,” the group said in a statement.
► Moorleah-based neurological music therapist Allison Davies believes the comments are discriminatory and unfair for any children.
Neurological music therapist Allison Davies said “there’s so much anger” over Senator Hanson’s comments.
She said other students could learn from having autistic children in their classroom.
“I was really angry but I was really concerned about the effects that could have on the people who don’t understand this issue and who might agree with her. That could take the acceptance backwards,” she said.
► Autism Centre manager Kathryn Fordyce saidthe comments showed a lack of understanding.
“The biggest challenges faced by people with autism is that kind of ignorance,’’ she said.
Manager of the Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre Kathryn Fordyce with 5-year-old Zoe Slater of Penguin. Picture: Jason Hollister
►NSW Teacher’s Federation president Maurie Mulheron says Pauline Hanson made “not a syllable” of sense in her suggestion that children with disabilities were a strain on schools and teachers.
“The comments were both vicious and ignorant,” Mr Mulheron said.
Maurie Mulheron, president of the NSW Teacher’s Federation. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.
“It’s unacceptable in 2017 for anyone harbouring any position of responsibility to make such an ill-informed commentabout kids with autism, or about any students with a disability.
“It was a completely and utterly incorrect statement.”
► Warrnambool autism advocate Bryce Pace has called on Senator Pauline Hanson to spend some time in his shoes.
STANDING UP: Autism advocate Bryce Pace has called on Senator Pauline Hanson to educate herself. Picture: Rob Gunstone
The 18-year-old was diagnosed with autism at nine years old. He said Senator Hanson’sthinking was very outdated.
“To say that they hold other students back – I don’t believe that’s the case,” he said.
“My teachers spend just as much time with me as the other students. If there are people on the spectrum and they’re capable of attending mainstream school then they should be allowed to.”
► Asa proud father with not “much of a filter”, Federation Council administrator Mike Eden felt compelled to replyto Pauline Hanson’s attack on children with autism.
The former top flight rugby league player directed a tweet at Senator Hanson after she told parliament students with autism should be separated from others.
Albury West Public School captain Will Eden, who has Asperger’s syndrome, with his mate Jacob Horne. Picture: SIMON BAYLISS
“Hi @PaulineHansonOz My son is 12 & has Autism he transitioned into mainstream & is now School captain Should school “to get rid of him” ??” Mr Eden wrote.
► Bathurst mother Vanessa Comiskey says inclusion is the key for students with disabilities in the education system.“Children to be supported,made to feel genuinely accepted and allowed to participate equally,” she said.
► Pauline Hanson’s call for children with autism and disabilities to be removed from mainstream classrooms is“antiquated” and “ludicrous,” Hunter parents and disability advocates say.
Lisa Ogle says mainstream education has worked for her daughter, Edie Hall, 13, who loves going to school. Picture: Jonathan Carroll.
Lisa Ogle, of Islington, said her severely disabled daughter, Edie, had been in mainstream classrooms from day one, at the suggestion of a school counsellor.
“Because of her very high, complex needs, initially I just assumed she would go to a special school,” Ms Ogle said.“It was really a trial–at first.
“We have seen mainstream education work for my daughter, and the other children around her.”
► Horsham mother Amanda Contal wants to see changes to education to ensure more children with disabilities have a chance to thrive.Ms Contal’s son Tristan, 7, has autism and attends Horsham Special School.
“I was shocked by Pauline Hanson’s comments,” she said.
“It was a very narrow point of view about children with autism because there is such a huge spectrum.
“It broke my heart to hear her comments–I couldn’t believe it.”
► Angela Dobbin has fought for eight years to get her two boys the support they need.
Angela and Allister Dobbin with their two sons, Harryson, 12, and Flynn, six. Both boys have autism, but require different kinds of support. Picture: Lachlan Bence.
Harryson, 12, and Flynn, six, both have autism.
Harryson, who now attends Ballarat Specialist School, was ostracised and bullied by his peers at his previous mainstream primary schools, his mother said.
Because his IQ was deemed “too high” the family had to fight for four years for him to get him appropriate support.
Flynn, whose autism is less severe, wants to be an engineer. He started in a mainstream primary school this year.
Both boys are “thriving” in their respective schools, Mrs Dobbin said.
“Every autistic child is different in the way they learn. It’s like any child, no two children are the same,” the mother-of-three said.
“They all need to be treated as equal. My boys can contribute to the future, they can teach people to be tolerant.”