Sport carnivals, presentation nights and formal occasions provide significant learning opportunities for children with special needs.
To the untrained eye, events such as Budawang Public School’s recent athletics carnival, could appear to be nothing more than a day of fun off school grounds.
But it’s so much more than that, says the school’s principal Sheryl Bruffey.
“No curriculum stands alone, all subjects interrelate and so we believe that an athletics carnival and events like it provide authentic learning opportunities for our students … (who) are engaged in the development of important literacy skills including listening (and) talking and … mathematical skills such as direction, length and distance, numbers and time,” she said.
“But most importantly the students have a chance to continue their relationship building in a different setting or context. They can help encourage each other, cheer for each other and work as a team.”
Pulling off a successful event is a huge undertaking but Ms Bruffey says the students provide the motivation to “go the extra mile”.
“If we don’t do things like this, where else can our students earn ribbons, experience the fun of competing with their friends, and hanging out with their school friends for an extended period of time in an informal setting?”
And it’s not just the students who benefit.
Andrew and Krista Ford of Sanctuary Point say organised events such as these normalise what can be a very stressful life.
Their eight-year-old son Declan has no interest in competing in the events.
“But for me, it’s just so wonderful to see all the kids. To see how they’ve grown and what they’re achieving,” Krista said.
“These are the positives that keep you going through the hard times.”
Melissa O’Connor, whose six-year-old daughter Zara, started at the school earlier this year, enjoyed the experience of cheering her on from the sidelines.
“It’s just nice to be able to be involved with something so typical,” she said.