PARENTS and teachers hope that children with learning disabilities will get a healthy boost in special needs education support this year.
Work is under way to develop a national disability insurance scheme, which aims to ensure Australians with disabilities have better access to services in the community.
The federal government committed $1 billion in the budget to support the first stage of the scheme.
Teachers and parents said special needs units in schools were in particularly desperate need of more funding.
Almost 80 per cent of students who have a disability are enrolled in mainstream schools.
During the past 24 years, the number of students in NSW public schools who had some form of disability increased from 1.9 per cent to 4.7 per cent, or 35,000 students.
Earlier this year, the state government promised to give schools an extra $47.9 million under the national "More Support for Students with Disabilities" initiative.
Money will go towards additional resources including new technology in classrooms and staff training.
Many crying out for help
Steven Drakoulis said he was lucky that his son George, 10, had the support he needed at school.
But he knows that many families are crying out for help.
The Beverly Hills father said he realised the extent of the demand after he established a Sydney-wide autism support network.
The free weekly meetings are an outlet for parents to share experiences about the difficulties associated with raising autistic children.
"A lot of things have changed for the better in recent years," he said. "It used to be that if your child didn't look disabled, it was assumed support wasn't needed.
"You often hear of the government making services available but so many people don't know about them.
"There is not enough happening at schools," he said. "Children fall behind and as a result, are left further isolated.
"We are very fortunate because my son has good support at school.
"Even though he struggles socially, he's never been bullied, he always makes friends and excels academically."
Mr Drakoulis hosts meetings for parents at Kingsgrove Community Aid Centre every second Thursday from 10am to noon. Details: 9150 7823.