Maloney runs one of the school’s three specialist classrooms designed for students on the autism spectrum, and says the year has shown the school what they need to do next.
“Certainly it’s a year we can reflect on, and we know how to move forward and do things better,” he explains.
“I know it’ll be a year we look back on and remember the tougher times; I think it will get easier moving forward.”
Students in the school’s program, which was featured in the September 2018 edition of Australian Teacher Magazine, are helped to navigate social contexts, to build resilience and strengthen their mental health.
News of Marangaroo’s programs has spread, and Maloney says there are now waitlists of parents keen to get their students involved.
“It would be nice to be able to help everybody but we’ve only got limited spaces and it’s not a program that we can get results [from] within three to six months, it’s something that does take time.”
Typically, he says it’s a 12 - 24 month journey for students through the program.
He adds that awareness around autism and special needs is growing, both in the curriculum and society in general, with better resources available.
One of his highlights for the year was ACARA’s release of the national numeracy and literacy learning progressions.
Quantifying the progress of his students can be difficult at times; but, Maloney explains, the new progressions make things easier.
“Both of those have been really helpful documents to have.
“They actually broke the curriculum down into smaller steps again so it actually shows you the progress rather than having a Year 1 outcome and Year 2 outcome and no real stepping stone between as far as how progress will occur.
“Sometimes [a student’s] misconceptions are just one little idea or one little concrete activity that needs to take place to help a student work around a misconception that could be a roadblock to progress a lot further down the track, as far as curriculum goes.
“So what looks like a big issue in [the] curriculum further along the line, in Year 5 or Year 6, is actually just something that the student might have misunderstood when they haven’t experienced it in Year 2.
“They then took the misconception to heart and that misconception has made it difficult to be able to deal with [the] curriculum further along.
“So dealing with those misconceptions ... to help identify where they are obviously helps our students out greatly.”
Quantifying social skills progress is also difficult, but Maloney says the school knows now what it needs to do.
“Luckily, we’ve got a well-organised Australian curriculum and there’s a general capabilities for personal and social capabilities for students, and we use that to measure progress for students and how they’ve developed their social skills,” he says.
“But trying to quantify and trying to target the best interventions to help improve the students’ opportunities for success has been the biggest challenge we’ve had.
“Moving forward, I think we’ve got our heads around a lot of it, and obviously that’s where a lot of energy is focused at the moment.
"[We’re] making sure we’re collecting the data on the intervention strategies we’re using, and making sure we can monitor the progress of the social skill development, because for the most part for the students we work with the curriculum is not the issue ... it’s the social complexities of the mainstream classroom that they struggle with.”
It sounds like Marangaroo has a firm plan for 2019.