An autism-specific school gets the green light in North Queensland as the first school to open in the state receives funding for major refurbishments. 

Prep to Year 2 children on the autism spectrum living in the Cairns area will, for the first time, get access to autism-specific schooling from the start of the 2019 school year. Autism Queensland (AQ) will begin offering the specialist schooling at its Education and Therapy Centre at Edmonton.

The Cairns school will have two classes of six children with both groups attending two days a week in a dual placement system with their local school. The model is based on a part-time option offered at two AQ Queensland school campuses in Brisbane.

AQ Queensland school principal, Cae Ashton said there was strong interest from families in accessing autism specific education for their school-aged children. “We conducted an extensive client survey in the Cairns area as well as public information sessions in September to gauge local needs before lodging the application with NSSAB,” she said. “This research indicated a growing need for autism specific education to support school-aged children living in Cairns, Atherton, Innisfail and surrounding areas.”

For more information about the school, including fees and the teaching and therapy program, and to obtain an enrolment application form visit:

Queensland’s first ever autism-specific school, which opened at Sunnybank Hills in 1977, is set for a $1.3 million refurbishment.

The first project is refurbishment and conversion of the amenities block to a Prep General Learning Area (GLA), including a classroom, quiet spaces, amenities, a covered drop-off area and acoustic perimeter fencing. Other projects include the refurbishment of the administration building and conversion of the junior school building to six GLAs, six withdrawal rooms, amenities, an HPE gym area and other facilities.

The Sunnybank campus is one of only three accredited, independent schools in Queensland providing specialist education and therapy programs for students with a diagnosis of ASD aged five years (Prep) to 18 years. Full-time and part-time placements are available at the school and students are grouped according to age, ability and needs with a maximum of six per class. Each class is led by a teacher and at least one teacher aide with additional support provided by allied health professionals, including speech pathologists, occupational therapists and behaviour specialists.

“Our educational approach focuses on the development of core characteristics of autism, such as social skills, communication and sensory processing, behaviour, stress management and daily living, play and recreation skills,” AQ CEO, Rod Cameron said.

Comment below to have your say on this story.

If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch with Freedom2live’s managing online editor Kymberly Martin at 

Sign up to Freedom2Live’s newsletter.