Special Education daily RAT recommendation confusion

Children with disabilities are being asked to undertake five rapid antigen tests (RATs) each week before attending special development school by the Andrews Government.

In contrast, mainstream school students are requested to undertake only two RATs a week.

Shadow Assistant Minister for Education and The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath has called on the Andrews Government to explain why it failed to consult broadly with families with children with disabilities about its back-to-school recommendations.

“Parents of children with disabilities have contacted me expressing genuine frustration around the Andrews Government’s Covid testing plan and lack of communication – they are particularly concerned about the state government’s recommendation to perform daily nasal swabs”, said Ms Bath.

“By nature, nasal RATs are invasive and for a child living with a disability it can be a challenging and distressing procedure.

“Many people living with disabilities have associated sensory processing disorders and limited communication, many are nonverbal – parents have shared their concerns with me that nasal Covid testing will create trauma and trigger aggressive outbursts causing injury to parent or child.

“When a change of routine is required, parents of children with disabilities spend hours preparing them with communication books, visual aids and role play and the Andrews Government has failed to consider this.”

Ms Bath said the Andrews Government’s testing regime for special education students should include the choice to perform the less invasive saliva testing RAT as an alternate option.

“Labor has had over 12 months to prepare for the reintroduction of safe face to face learning, and parents are legitimately asking why the government has not consulted with the disability sector in Gippsland,” said Ms Bath.

“Once again during the pandemic acceptable educational options for children with disabilities have been poorly considered and families again feel let down and an afterthought.

“The Andrews Government must explain why it hasn’t provided additional resources to assist children with disabilities prepare for the upcoming school year or provide the more easily administered saliva tests.

“Labor should be looking at education solutions for people with disabilities, instead of creating barriers for children and their families.

“Daniel Andrews needs to recognise parents are best positioned to understand the health vulnerabilities of their own children with disabilities.

“Parents of children with disabilities have spent a lifetime advocating for their health, wellbeing, psychological and social development – if another household member tests positive for Covid or they become a close contact of a confirmed case, they will keep their child home.

“The question remains why parents of children with disabilities were not consulted about the preparation and implementation of Covid testing recommendations and why there was a lack of proper planning,” said Ms Bath.