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Special education services, 1958-1982

The creation of Special Education Services in 1958, with W. Wood as the first director, was a recognition of the growing importance of special education in the Queensland education system. Between 1958 and 1980 three major trends can be discerned.

Firstly, there has been a move away from the provision of separate 'special' schools for children with learning disabilities. Wherever possible, such children are now integrated into the regular schools, with special classes and assistance being provided within these schools. The beginnings of this trend can be seen in 1956 when a number of blind children began receiving education in specially equipped units within selected high schools, and remedial classes were introduced into primary schools. By the 1970s services were being provided to children in three situations - regular schools, special education units attached to schools, and special schools.

Secondly, there has been a rapid expansion in the number of special education staff, particularly in the variety of specialists such as speech therapists, occupational therapists and social workers. In part this has been due to the trend towards integration into regular schools, and the consequent need for expanded support services for these schools. More basically, however, it has been due to the greatly increased attention given since 1958 to the needs of children with learning disabilities, and to the expansion in the numbers of children attending high schools.

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The number of speech correctionists had reached 22 by 1966. The next year, five speech therapists were appointed and, gradually taking over the role of the correctionists, speech therapists grew rapidly in number till 1980 when there were 55. In 1968 there were only three remedial teachers employed by the Division, but this had grown to 300 by 1980. In 1973, the first social worker was appointed, and in the same year, the first resource teacher was appointed to a Brisbane primary school. It was intended that resource teachers would fill a need for services in smaller towns where separate special schools and classes were not needed. In 1974, an ophthalmologist and an optometrist were appointed as part-time consultants at Narbethong, and in the same year, a pilot project involving the appointment of occupational therapists and physiotherapists was begun.

The third major trend in the period 1958 to 1980 was the gradual regionalisation of guidance and special education services. In 1966 regional guidance officers were appointed in Townsville and Toowoomba in a first step towards providing full guidance services in country areas. By 1970, a district office had been opened in Rockhampton, and in that year a fourth office was opened at Maryborough. By 1976, there were 11 regional offices. In 1976, a Co-ordinator of Education for the Physically Handicapped was appointed in recognition of the need for closer co-ordination of the work of the district offices and in 1977 a Co-ordinator of Education for the Intellectually Handicapped was appointed.

Accompanying the growth in special education services has been a major development in provisions for teacher education in the area. In 1970 Mt Gravatt CAE commenced a three-year course for a diploma in special education, and in 1972 the Department appointed two training officers to conduct a year's full-time course in guidance. Other institutions such as James Cook University of North Queensland and Darling Downs IAE also began special education courses in the 1970s.

An important development came in 1976 with the appointment of an Advisory Council in Special Education under Professor B.H. Watts, to research present provisions and future trends in special education.

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Last reviewed
10 January 2013
Last updated
10 January 2013