SIX hours from home, Vanessa Comiskey was in no mood not to be heard.
For too long her words to school representatives had fallen on deaf ears, while her son contemplated taking his own life because he was too scared to go school.
But on Friday Ms Comiskey spoke up for her son and all the other kids with disabilities, who “are being horrendously abused, bullied, isolated and discriminated against to the point of suicide and self harming”.
She made the long trek from Bathurst to Shellharbour to address the NSW parliamentary inquiry into the education of students with a disability or special needs.
“As a full-time carer, who has been picking up the pieces for an inadequate education system, I have come to realise that when we stop believing in children as capable individuals, no matter the severity of their disability, we ultimately fail them,” Ms Comiskey said.
“Too many times, the preconceived notions and the ideas about my child’s disability [autism spectrum], greatly impacted on his schooling experiences and made him feel absolutely worthless.”
Ms Comiskey told the inquiry parents were left with little choice but to withdraw their kids from mainstream education but home-schooling and distance education meant they missed out on receiving the support provided to other students.
And while getting her son into distance education “saved his life”, Ms Comiskey had to threaten legal litigation against the NSW Department of Education to make it happen.
“I wrote to them directly and said that my son was suicidal and self-harming and I no longer wanted him at school,” she said.
My son was suicidal and self-harming and I no longer wanted him at school.Vanessa Comiskey
“They said it would have to go to a panel to be approved … but I wasn’t having that.
“My son was beside himself. I was pushed to my brink and I said to the Department of Education you either put him in distance education or I will do legal action because if something happens to my son and you forced him back into school because you wouldn’t listen I’m going to hold you to that.
“I basically forced their hand … I truly feel that you could throw all of the money and resources in the world at the system but unless people in charge start shifting their attitudes, it is not going to make much of an impact.”