Victoria Post was bullied because of her autism when she attended a mainstream school, and it broke the hearts of her parents.
In response, her father Reza decided to move from New Zealand to Albury, where she could attend Wewak Street School, which caters to students on the spectrum.
“It hurts to see your child being bullied like that, anybody in that situation would think that,” he said.
“A teacher has got 25 other kids in the classroom to worry about, but the special needs child needs so much looking after, it can be unfair to the other kids in the classroom as well.”
And the Post’s experience with changing schools is not uncommon.
Almost 40 per cent of 2000 families with an autistic daughter said they had to change schools, according to a survey by Australian advocacy group Yellow Ladybugs.
The research found boys were four times more likely to be diagnosed at an early age, leading some to question why the treatment of autism in girls missed the mark early on.
Experts argue girls sometimes hide their autism by having better communication and social skills, and are usually not as obsessed with single topics of interest like some boys on the spectrum.
“It’s very difficult to realise there’s something wrong with your child,” Reza said.
“I didn’t take enough action really early on. It probably wasn’t until Victoria was about five years old that we really got her properly diagnosed.
“They do say early intervention is best, and I do see people with young kids working really hard with them. But we’re here for her, and she’s a lovely kid.”
Thurgoona mum Justine Fulford’s daughter Ruby was not diagnosed with autism until she was seven, after teachers in a mainstream school had wrongly dismissed her behaviour as naughty.
Mrs Fulford was not surprised the study reflected the struggles some parents had in finding a suitable education institution for children on the spectrum.
“Initially we felt that a smaller mainstream school would be better for her, but she was just seen as disruptive,” she said.
“That was their outcome of Ruby, even when we had the diagnosis, they felt that she was just naughty, and more disruptive.
“That’s when I approached the Aspect Riverina School … definitely moving has helped us immensely.”
Ruby could enjoy both mainstream and special needs education at Aspect Riverina School, Mrs Fulford said.
“She’s fitting in beautifully, and she’s doing some integration with St Patrick’s School with her year level,” she said. “The mixture of the mainstream and support has been invaluable to her.”