On 12th September 2018 the Department for Education’s Disability, Policy and Programs (DPP) Directorate held its first Parent Conference at the Hilton, Adelaide. The conference, an extension of the termly Parent Forums, gave parents the opportunity to learn together and be empowered by knowledge and strategies to positively engage with their preschool /school and share their experiences.
Organised by the Parent Reference Group (PRG), the aim of the conference was to help parents to focus on moving forward in education and not allowing disability to define their child. The program offered participants an understanding of the complexity of the journey and information that could be taken away to imbed into daily lives and routines.
Julie Rungie, PRG representative, led the conference with a welcome from Ann-Marie Hayes, Executive Director, Early Years and Child Development. Ann-Marie officially opened the day introducing a musical performance by students from Kilparrin Teaching and Assessment School and Services, South Australian School for the Vision Impaired and Errington Special Education Centre. Directed by music teachers Lucy Standish and Lily Gower, the performance focussed the audience for the day whilst celebrating the student’s abilities.
Kirsty Russell, Parent, Positive Special Needs Parenting, Newcastle, presented the first Keynote, setting the tone for the day with her balanced and insightful presentation Learning from a Positive Education Journey.
“Her presentation was wonderful and inspiring. She was able to explore sensitive issues in a way that reinforced that collaboration between parents and educators is a basis for success for any child. She deftly touched on complex issues, unpacked key elements and made positive suggestions for the way forward. Immediately following her keynote participants were wanting more.”
Ian May, Director, DPP
Dr Emma Goodall, Manager, Disability and Complex Needs, presented the second Keynote address, sharing research from neuroscience in a visual and creative way and linked it to Interoception. Emma provided hands on activities demonstrating the research in a way that everyone could not only understand it but use in their everyday life.
The parents were spoilt for choice with the range of topics and high quality afternoon workshops.
Kirsty Russell presented two workshops focussing on practical strategies and checklists to help parents in their decision making to Find the Right Fit for their child’s education journey and managing their passage through the complexities of all levels of Transition.
Fiona Rillotta and Pammi Raghavendra presented their ongoing research between Flinders University and the Department on an innovative disability awareness program connecting students with and without disabilities through inclusive physical activity and social media.
Kymberly Louise, behavioural psychologist, Learning4All, presented The Parent Role: Empowering Parents within the Educational Team, offering suggestions on how parents could achieve true empowerment when everyone on their child’s team are working together to meet the child’s needs. She provided information about communication skills, the rights of the child, team building and using an educational focused template to record key information about the child.
Ideas for Managing Anxiety in their Children, presented by Angela Falkenberg, President, Primary Principal’s Association, analysed the impacts of anxiety and described a range of effective strategies and coping techniques for parents to support their children.
Lee Munn, Director, Lobethal Community Kindergarten, showcased their Kindy program, presenting ideas for “limitless opportunities for children to learn through play as they discover, explore, experiment and develop concepts and relationships with each other, staff and the natural environment”. Whilst Jason Tyndall and Sarah Sutter from Nature PlaySA illustrated the values of nature play and risk taking in their presentation Nature Play for Every Child.
A compilation video was made on the day including an introduction by Ian May Director, DPP, comments from parents attending and a closing statement from Ann-Marie Hayes, acknowledging the value of parent involvement and encouraging others to join us in the future.
The responses received from the participants survey indicated the conference was a resounding success with over 90% of respondents stating they would recommend it and wanted to be informed of future events. All sessions were rated well and the highlights included the two keynotes; the children’s performance, the mindfulness workshop and the overall organisation of the day.
We would like to thank the Parent Reference Group members Julie Rungie, Kate Annells, Wendy Hosking, Lesley Heinrich and Trish Jones for their hard work and strong contribution to the success of the Parent Forums and the Conference over the past two years.
We will be continuing next year with forums and a proposed conference so keep your eye out on the SERU website and Facebook, your school or preschool or on your email for the 2019 dates and venues. Contact Education.DPP@sa.gov.au for more information.