A new school for students with intellectual disabilities has launched at Cedar Christian College in Farmborough Heights and parents say it's life changing.
The ASPIRE school is an internal school designed for students diagnosed with intellectual disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
It all began with one parent speaking with a teacher two years ago about her dream for a classroom where her daughter Tahlia could learn better.
"We need a classroom where Tahlia can go and learn in a small quieter environment but she's still part of Cedars and she can still do activities with the Cedar kids and lunch and recess her friends, and I said to [the teacher] 'But that would take a miracle'," Hayley Macfarlane said.
Her 10-year-old daughter Tahlia who has a disability would easily get distracted by senses such as sound. When she came home from school she would talk about a loud fidget spinner a student held but could not remember what the teacher said.
The ASPIRE program is a small classroom with a priority on literacy and numeracy.
Each student has an individualised education plan, which addresses their academic, emotional, and social needs.
Cedars Christian College School Principal Steve Walton said the program has a strong emphasis on integration.
"I really wanted a model that would be one that was inclusive and not isolating students from their peers and giving them the specialist education they need but also integrating them with their peers as well which is really important," Mr Walton said.
ASPIRE students integrate with other peers for classes such as art and music.
The school started a trial at the start of 2023 with four students from years three and four and rolled it out officially in mid-November.
They are taking enrolments and over the next five years will expand to accommodate up to 50 students from Years 3-12.
Mrs Macfarlane noticed a big change in her daughter's self-confidence, independence, and well-being in the ASPIRE program.
Tahlia's energy levels increased and she's no longer absolutely exhausted at the end of the school day meaning the family can do after-school events.
Before ASPIRE, her daughter was so exhausted that she would hardly talk for about an hour after school.
"Because she's not so exhausted it's almost like the real Tahlia is able to come out more because she's not burnt out from trying so hard to keep herself together in the classroom that was so hard for her," Mrs Macfarlane said.
"For the first time in all her schooling life, I have actually been able to let go and send our child to school knowing that they really do have her and are meeting her needs at the level she's at."
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.