The Early Years Fact sheet

Starting school is a big step for every child and their family. When your child has a disability, it can feel even bigger. It is good to know that in Queensland, every student is entitled to attend their local state school.

It is also reassuring that 50 years of research has found that mainstream education settings provide positive academic and social outcomes for all learners, along with better long-term outcomes for employment, independence and social belonging for learners with disability.

Families may choose to enroll their children with disability into their local school because they are guided by a vision for their child to grow up as any child would, following the typical life path that leads from school to life in their community.

Read more… (new page)

Newsletter nine: What can families do when ‘behaviour’ is catching everyone’s attention?

Newsletter nine:

What can families do when 'behaviour' is catching everyone’s attention?

School inclusion can feel very fragile when concerns arise about a student’s 'behaviour'.  CRU speaks to many families who are facing suspensions or exclusions, or who are worried about their child’s enrolment.  This newsletter is designed to provide helpful ideas on what might be behind a student’s 'behaviour' and what parents can do to shape different understandings and conversations.  We hope this information will also be helpful to professionals working with young people and their families.

Dr Michael Kendrick has said that: “Once people are labeled with words such as 'challenging' it will predict that the focus will be brought on their behaviour, because the behaviour is the thing that is catching people’s attention … My advice is not to think of people as having challenging behaviour at all, but rather that they be seen as people who are poorly served or whose needs are not met very well in their present situation”.

To quote Herb Lovitt “People with difficult behavior are social critics who tell us what we are doing wrong.”  We believe children will always do well when they can.  If there is ‘behaviour’, then we need to stop and listen to what a child is communicating, as they will be telling us what we need to do to include them – and indeed everyone.

An image of two pie charts with the titles 'reasons for a child's behaviour'. The first chart is titled 'what people think' and is filled with the category 'naughty and doing it on purpose'. The other piece chart has 6 categories and is titled what really is behind behaviour. The categories are equal and are: development, tired/hungry, anxiety, sensory processing, need connection and unment need.

Image Source:  The Therapist Parent.

CRU believes that:

  • All children have the same need to belong, to feel safe, to feel valued and included by their peers and by their school communities.
  • All children, indeed all human beings, will communicate their feelings, and unmet needs, in the way that they can.
  • As adults, we can do better to support young people to understand their own needs and feelings, and communicate these in more positive ways.

Dangerous Words

The danger in labelling something as 'behaviour' is it immediately limits everyone’s ability to relate to the person who is 'behaving'. Too often, we do not stop to ask: Why is this child acting that way? What are they needing? What can I do to help?

It stops people from listening to the child who is already feeling unheard.

Emma Van der Klift, internationally recognized neurodiverse speaker, author and disability activist refers to the unhelpful tendency to label individuals – both children and adults - as being ‘manipulative’, ‘resistant’, or ‘seeking attention’.

“The problem with these words: manipulation, resistance, even the idea of doing things for attention…makes the person sound like it’s all they ever do, and not only that, it doesn’t tell us anything useful.”

Emma Van der Klift

Emma maintains that these words are a signal of the frustration of the teaching or support staff, but by locating the problem solely in the child who is needing support, it limits the possibility of finding useful ways forward. You can view her video presentation titled ‘Three Dangerous Words’ in the behaviour section of our Inclusive Education Resource site.

What can we do as parents?

As parents, receiving the dreaded ‘behaviour phone calls’ from school can be distressing and overwhelming.  When those calls start to become frequent, accompanied with escalating distress in the child and in the severity of punishment, it can be hard to see a way forward.  CRU has many helpful resources already on our website, but here are some top tips for where to start:

Get informed

It can be helpful to know the tools and resources that The Department of Education have developed to guide schools in their approach to ‘behaviour’.  Please note that schools will have their own policies and approaches, so getting to know your school’s framework and policy will be important.

The Department’s Autism Hub hosts a free functional behaviour assessment tool on their website.

It is designed to prompt family members and professionals to think about what occurs before and after a ‘behaviour’ to understand what function or role that behaviour may have, and what strategies may be useful to help reduce or replace that behaviour.

The Department has also published a factsheet Prevention and de-escalation of risk behaviour fact sheet (pdf) and have available a collection of new resources for parents.

Other resources are in development, so please contact CRU for a fuller guide to materials.

Our tip: Questions to ask school when you are informed of ‘behaviour'

* try to keep conversation objective (focus on facts not emotions)*

What, where, when, who? :

  1.  What is my child doing?
  2. When is this happening?
  3. Where is it happening?
  4. Who is with my child?
  5. What happens before?
  6. What happens after?

Then… take some time!

“I would like some time to think and to talk with my child.”

Families know their child best; this concrete information and your knowledge of the child can help you figure out what is going on for your child, so you can share this with the school.

Keep expanding your understanding of ‘behaviour’

As our child’s advocate, it is important we get clear about seeing past 'difficult behaviour', in order to look for messages of unmet need.  David Pitonyak unpacks what these messages could be in his article ‘Notes for Parents’ (PDF).

Remember that your child’s behavior has meaning.  Finding out what your child needs is the first step in supporting your child, and the people who love your child, to change.

David Pitonyak

Here are just a few different tools available to parents and schools to help your child think about what is happening for them, and how things could be made better at school for them.

  • Is it Sensory or is it Behaviour? is an article written by an Occupational Therapist to work out what might be helpful if you are unsure if it’s ‘sensory or behaviour’.
  • What gets labelled 'behaviour' that isn't is a short video we released earlier this year, in which behaviour consultant, Ann Greer, describes sensory and movement differences in children that get mis-labelled as ‘behaviour’.
  • Identify your School Triggers (PDF) is a self-reflection tool to help students and/or their parents and caregivers identify their ‘triggers’ at school.

Our tip: Questions for parents to consider

When this ‘behaviour’ occurs:

  • What is my child’s experience?
  • What is my child feeling?
  • What need is not being met? *

Was there something/ someone that made them feel uncomfortable?

Was there something they did not understand?

Was there a demand or challenge that they do not yet have the skills to meet?

* Don’t overlook the ordinary needs of any child – to be valued, to belong, to have friends, to experience success, to have age appropriate choice and control, or for their opinion on the situation to be heard (even if they lack the words to express that verbally).

REFRAME, or ‘RESTORY’, the behaviour

In a situation where our child’s actions are described as ‘challenging behaviour’, it is important for us to stand strong in our advocacy, and support them to communicate the real human story of their experience.

We must reframe the picture that is presented to us, to support our children, and to support their school to see our child’s perspective.  We must help others never lose sight of the child and their perspective and well being.

Julie Causton and Kate Macleod state we must ‘restory’ the behaviour:

 “All kids want to do well because they want love, belonging and understanding.  It is up to us to restory our student’s challenging behaviour in order to help them succeed, feel loved, and feel understood.  Certainly, it’s what we'd want someone to do for us.”

(From ‘Behaving to Belonging : The inclusive art of supporting students who challenge us’ by Julie Causton and Kate Macleod)

Image Source: North Star Path

Our tip: With your Child

When your child is calm ask if they are okay to talk. Empathise first, listen, tell them what you have observed (without judgement) then ask for their thoughts on the situation.  Work together on planning solutions.

Even where your child has limited effective communication, think about:

  • What words or other strategies (e.g AAC) does my child need to express themselves to get their needs met, or to name and express their feelings next time?
  • How will my child be successful in communicating this next time the situation occurs?
  • Who at the school can ensure this will happen?
  • How can I help the school to tune into my child’s communication including non-verbal signs and the 'behavioural whispers'?
  • Document and share with the school key information, e.g. the signs my child is becoming uncomfortable, what helps them to feel safe and regulated, and what to avoid. 

A black and white photo of Dr Martin Luther King with a quote from him in text over the image. A riot is the Language of the unheard.

Tip: Don’t overcomplicate with tools and strategies – focus on regulation and relationship first!

An image of an upside down triangle. It has the words (bottom to top, small to large). Regulate, Relate, Reason.

Image source:  Bruce Perry, Beacon House (PDF).

He’s confident, he’s happy, and he’s part of the class

CRU believes that too often when 'behaviour' is catching everyone’s attention, we can lose sight of the importance of supporting students in ways that are consistent with full inclusion and participation.  When we focus on 'managing behaviour', we lose the opportunity to focus on the supports and adjustments students need to do better.

This year we released this video that shares the story of a family’s vision for their son, their belief in his potential and an unwavering conviction to his inclusion at his local primary school.  This video shares how a school team transformed Nathan’s experience in his year 4 class through investing in their relationship with him, and nurturing his place in the class as an independent learner.   Instead of a focus on behaviour and risk management, there was a focus on planning for inclusion – with amazing outcomes for Nathan.

The problem with punishment

CRU is concerned that many approaches to dealing with 'behaviour' are reactive, not based in evidence, and have serious immediate and long-term detrimental consequences for students with disability.

Recent data shows that children with disability continue to be suspended and expelled from Queensland schools at a disproportionate rate when compared with children who do not have disability.  This discussion paper from QAI evaluates the current systemic responses and makes recommendations for reform.

A black and white photo of a bearded man smiling. It includes the text quote by Michel Tremblay: If we can look at others with curiosity rather than judgement, then we will rediscover the tenderness within ourselves.

For further reading:

Supporting People with Sensory & Movement Differences – with Compassion, Collaboration & Respect

The banner of the webinar. The text is repeated in the post below.

The manner in which a person handles incoming information is paramount in determining the most successful supports for an optimally independent, rich and full life. How do we get there? Let’s go together!

Join us in this explanation and video demonstration of what occurs for individuals with sensory and movement differences and diversity.

Based on the work of Leary and Donnellan (2012), we’ll use this understanding as a cornerstone for determining learning and behavioral approaches that are COLLABORATIVE and SUCCESSFUL for some of our most complex learners.

Replay of the first webinar now closed

The replay of this webinar is now closed.  You are welcome to register for the next webinar in this series below.  The even is titled Lights! Camera! Autism! and is on the morning of the 9th of June.

The presenters

Kate McGinnity, M.S.

A phot of Kate McGinnity, smiling warmly

Kate is an international presenter and author as well as a nationally recognized consultant/coach and teacher in the field of autism.  She has over 35 years of experience working with individuals with autism and their families.  During her tenure as a teacher, Kate was recognized as the National Teacher of the Year by the Autism Society of America.

She is currently involved in private practice providing training and consultation/coaching to professionals and parents as well as counseling and yoga to individuals on the autism spectrum.  Kate has taught graduate level autism related courses, through a variety of universities.

Kate is the co-author of the following books, all available through CBR Press: “Walk Awhile in My Autism” (2005);  “Lights! Camera! Autism! Using video technology to enhance lives” (2011); and “Lights! Camera! Autism!2 Using video technology to support new behavior (2013).”   She is committed to bringing her passion and compassion to every aspect of her work and life.

Anna Nikolay

A photo of Anna Nikolay, smiling warmly

Anna Nikolay is a special education teacher and Autism consultant in Wisconsin. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2018 with degrees in Elementary and Special Education and has taught special education in Wisconsin since then.

Anna was selected early in her career to be a member of an esteemed group of colleagues on a district wide autism support team, co-leading the team after her initial year on it.

Anna develops and presents trainings for staff and families on a variety of autism and other special education related topics. Anna is known for her ability to collaborate with individuals and students who cross her path. In 2019 Anna started her Autism consulting business Nikolay Consulting, LLC to help support and amplify voices of individuals with Autism.

In 2020, Anna started in the Education Policy and K-12 Leadership Master’s program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Useful Resources


These videos were included in the webinar:


There was a number of books mentioned in the webinar.  CRU has the following books for sale in our Online Store.  Click on the images below to find out more.

Another book, which CRU does not stock, is by Judy Endow - Paper Words:  Discovering and Living with My Autism (external link in new tab).

Autism sensory movement differences
Lights Camera Autism
Lights Camera Autism 2
Walk Awhile in My Autism

CRU sharing information: NDIS consultation, new worker screening & Down Syndrome conference

Dear Friends and Supporters of CRU,

As well as keeping you updated with CRU events, from time to time we like to share information about other events that are happening that we think might be of interest to you. Please see below for information on the New Worker Screening for Self and Plan managed NDIS participants, details of the Down Syndrome QLD Conference and find out more and have your say about proposed changes to the NDIS.

Webinar: New worker screening for self-managed & plan managed NDIS participants

From 1 February 2021, a new National Worker Screening system began in Queensland. New workers for registered NDIS service providers, working in risk assessed roles, will need to obtain a worker screening clearance. But what will the new system mean for people who are not using registered providers?
Join CRU, QDN, ADA, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Disability Network of Queensland (ATSIDNQ) for a free webinar to find out what the changes mean for self-managed and plan managed participants and their families.

Endless Possibilities Practical Inclusion Conference
Down Syndrome Queensland

Members of CRU’s Families for Inclusive Education Project team are excited to be presenting at Down Syndrome Queensland’s Endless Possibilities Conference being held in Brisbane – and live streamed – in early March. For families and teachers, the conference will provide practical ideas, strategies and tips to achieve Inclusive Education.

8am – 4:30pm (Qld) March 4, 2021

Victoria Park Golf Club, Herston, Brisbane (and live streamed). Separate Parent and Teacher streams are being run.

Click here for the program and full list of topics/speakers, and to find out how to register.

Have your say on proposed changes to the NDIS

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) is proposing a number of significant changes to the way the NDIS works, and is asking for feedback about these changes. We encourage you to take some time to understand what is being proposed and think about what these changes might mean for you or your family. There is more information, including discussion papers and FAQs on the NDIS website.

You can provide feedback on any of the proposed changes, in written, audio or video format. Consultations close at 10am ADST Tuesday 23rd February.

CYDA information sessions on upcoming NDIS Changes

Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) is holding online information sessions on the proposed NDIS changes, and seeking feedback on the changes through surveys. There will be a session and survey for parents and caregivers, and a session and survey for young people with disability who have hand experience with the NDIS.


Upcoming Project: From School To Work


Banner image. Hands holding up a sign that reads coming soon. Text: From school to work. Text: Join our mailing list to keep up to date on this upcoming project

In the second half of 2020, CRU – Community Resource Unit (QLD), Family Advocacy (NSW) and Imagine More (ACT) will start to work together on a new three year project to support young people with disability and their families to engage with employment.

This program aims to inspire, increase the confidence of and motivate students with a disability and their families to make a start on the road to employment.

We’ll be holding introductory webinars and in-depth workshops for each of the following groups:

  • Imagining Work for students in Years 7 and 8
  • Discovering Work for students in Years 9 and 10
  • Finding Work for students in Years 11 and 12.

We’ll share information about the dates and times of these webinars and workshops soon.  The information contained in the majority of the webinars will be the same in Queensland, New South Wales and the ACT. However some of the content delivered will be specific to the state or territory it is presented in to ensure we cover local schemes and issues.

CRU will be with you on this journey to encourage and support so that your high schooler with disability and your family feel empowered, and you can take action towards employment!

If you would like to join the mailing list and be kept up to date with the details of this project, please add your details to the form below.  If you are not a family member but a keen supporter of a person with disability and are interested in this topic, you are also most welcome to join our mailing list.

School to Work
This will help us as we plan for our workshops

As with the general CRU mailing list, we won’t share your information with anyone else and you can unsubscribe at any time.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about the ‘From School to Work’ project or other aspects of what CRU has to offer, please email

Support from Families for Inclusive Education for families moving to Learning at Home

We hope that you have enjoyed a happy and safe Easter.

As you will now be aware, the government has announced that when school goes back next week, most students will be moving to Learning at Home for the first 5 weeks of Term 2 (to be further reviewed).  This will be a big change for families and students and so we thought it would be helpful for us to be in touch with you about CRU’s plans and also to provide you with some important links to resources which can assist you.  We know there is a lot of information out there – so we hope to not overwhelm you with too much information.

While we know that schools will also be communicating with you with more specifics and tailored resources – we also know that school responses are likely to vary considerably.  While many families will be looking forward to the opportunity to spend more time at home with their family, this won’t be without its challenges and juggling, and could feel quite overwhelming – particularly given loss of other routines and supports, and general anxiety about the impact of COVID-19.

Individual consultations

We hope that as with any big transition that you are able to prioritise taking care of each other – including Mum and Dad! – and being led by the bigger long-term vision – even if it is harder to act on many of those dreams right now!  Without taking away from the challenges, this provides a time to take stock and even to get to know your child as a learner and therefore to be clearer about their strengths, passions and what supports work for them.

While this is the hope, we know this isn’t straightforward and want to reassure you that CRU will continue to support families though our individual consultation service – phone/email or zoom consults are possible by emailing or by phoning 3844 2211 and a consultant will get back to you.

This will be valuable for families knowing where to start in their transition to home learning!  Please remember that while the Families for Inclusive Education Project focuses on issues around inclusive education, CRU generally supports people with disability and their families, so if you have a question relating to other issues (e.g. NDIS or supports during this time), we may be able to assist you by linking you with another CRU team member.


As already announced on our date claimer, we will be hosting a webinar at 10.30am on 11th May on the topic of Communication with the School: Building a Foundation for Partnership.   It will include suggestions both for “ordinary” times as well as during this current context.   Given the new technical restrictions, we will be offering a recording and zoom session at a different time slot the following week – more details to follow.

Additional resources for families

We will also be:

  • Launching web resources for families
  • Offering group zoom conversations for families to learn about helpful resources, offer strategies, and support each other
  • Offering online learning versions of our workshops – in flexible formats
  • Sharing family stories and examples of inclusion in different formats
  • Continuing to support family to family peer support connections.

More information will follow, with specific dates and links for the zoom conversation and other online learning.

Department of Education Resources

We also want to draw your attention to the resources being made available by Queensland’s Department of Education:

Australian Coalition for Inclusive Education

CRU is a member of the Australian Coalition for Inclusive Education which has produced a very valuable resource for families leading home learning at this time. It has lots of interesting links for stimulating learning for all ages and interests.  There is also great information on how students can be socially connected during these unusual times.

CRU is interested in hearing your feedback about what additional supports would assist you to navigate the current challenges, and the Department of Education is seeking feedback from us on how learning at home is progressing, even in this preparatory phase.  Please contact us by phone or email if you would like to provide this input or need assistance.

Children and Young People with Disability (CYDA)

As well, Children and Young People with Disability (CYDA) is collecting national data and you may want to contribute through completing CYDA’s survey of young people with disability and families.  This survey will remain open during the COVID-19 crisis.

We hope you are able to enjoy the slower paced school holidays – and look forward to supporting you over the coming months.  Hang in there!