SSI News Blog

Mother of two Tatako Nishide found supporting her daughter’s autism needs while trying to settle in Australia from Japan a daunting experience, until she found Settlement Services International’s Ability Links NSW program.

SSI Ability Links NSW Linkers
Ability Links NSW Linker Takako Nishide and Castlecrag mother Hiroko Kawashima.

ALNSW is a program designed to help people with disability, their families and carers, meet their needs and reach their potential within their local communities.

Since the family’s arrival in Australia, Sayaka had been attending the Sydney Japanese International School. With her family’s efforts and tutoring from a support teacher privately funded by her parents, she had been getting by during her primary school education.

However, this situation proved to be insufficient once Sayaka turned 12, and the transition to high school quickly approached. Mrs Nishide knew that she had to find a new school for her daughter, but did not know where to start looking for options for an international student with a disability in a schooling system she was not familiar with.

“We moved to Australia two and a half years ago because of my husband’s job,” Mrs. Nishide said. “It was harder for my son, who was 14 at the time and had to quit his baseball team, which meant a lot to him. However, life for my daughter Sayaka had been easier in Sydney than what it would have been in Japan, where social stigma of having a mental health issue is still a problem.”

Now based in Castlecrag, Mrs Nishide found the solution unexpectedly at a Japanese carers meeting group in Chatswood where she met Hiroko Kawashima. Mrs Kawashima is a Linker with SSI’s ALNSW program.

SSI Linkers use their knowledge of the local area to help their participants plan for their future by accessing already existing resources available close to them. The pair started working together to explore the best options for Sayaka’s future. Mrs Kawashima, who is based in SSI’s new Willoughby office, helped the Castlecrag mum to navigate the public school system in NSW, helping fill out and lodge applications, as well as meeting with school counsellors.

This effort resulted in a place secured for Sayaka at Chatswood High School, where she will attend a special needs class with 15 other students who also require special learning support.

Chatswood High School, where Sayaka will start Year 7 at the end of January, promotes an integration policy where students with disabilities have their educational needs met by a combination of integrated and specialist classes. According to its website, “additional support is provided by itinerant support teachers, interpreters and teachers' aides.”  

To find out more about ALNSW and how SSI can help, please call the Ability Links offices on 02 8799 6700. 

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