OUR HISTORY SSENS School of Special Educational Needs Sensory
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School of Special Educational Needs: Sensory

The School of Special Educational Needs: Sensory was formed in 2013 with the joining of two specialist educational services.

Vision Education


  • The 1893 creation of the Education Department coincided with Mr F. S. Davies’ (a young man who was blind) active advocacy for a Perth institute to educate those with low vision and blindness.


  • Lobbying and community support enabled the March 1895 formation of the Home Teaching Society for the Blind.
  • Home teaching visits and distribution of braille and Moon books occurred.


  • A small grant formally established the Western Australian Home Teaching Society for the Blind that existed on public donations.
  • £500 was raised for an Industrial School for the Blind of Western Australia for education and development of practical trade skills.
  • Funds to build residential accommodation for 50 pupils aged 6-15, and adults, were raised and an institutional home was built on donated land in Maylands.
OUR HISTORY SSENS School of Special Educational Needs Sensory

Children play at the Royal W.A. Institute for the Blind, Maylands, 10 September 1953

Courtesy State Library of Western Australia - Image 242381PD.


  • At least 100 individuals with blindness lived in Perth. Infectious diseases such as rubella and chicken pox, were common.
  • The new Victorian Institute and Industrial School for the Blind (later named the Royal West Australian Institute for the Blind) opened in 1900.
  • The Ladies’ Braille Society, a group of volunteers, learned braille and produced textbooks for educational lessons such as grammar, poetry, history and arithmetic.


  • The Institute’s first fully trained teacher, and trained teacher of the blind, Miss E. Kennedy, took up her position.
  • Home teaching services continued.
  • The industrial component of the Institute continued and brushes and cane items such as furniture and mats were produced.
  • The Minister for Education mandated education for those with vision impairment and hearing loss in 1919.


  • The Institute’s children joined sighted peers at Maylands Primary School for singing and poetry instruction. This tapered off with World War II staffing shortages.


  • The Education Department assumed full responsibility for special schools including financing the Institute School.
  • Educational methods such as ‘sight-saving’ (oral and tactile segregated classes) as opposed to utilising residual vision were openly debated (‘sight-saving’ was later abolished in the 1950s).


  • Helen Keller visited WA and urged that children’s education occur away from industrial institutions. Emerging social commentary agreed.


  • The Institute’s Head Teacher collected children from home enabling their attendance at the new pre-school and kindergarten.
  • Integration occurred when children who were blind were transferred to Maylands Primary School and those with low vision moved to Thomas Street School and other schools.
  • Adjustments for learning access for those not requiring braille were provided to schools by Professor Ida Mann, Ophthalmologist.
OUR HISTORY SSENS School of Special Educational Needs Sensory

Children learn a ball game at the Royal W.A Institute for the Blind, 10 September 1953

Courtesy State Library of Western Australia - Image 242380PD


  • Sutherland Blind Centre (later renamed Sutherland Special School for the Blind and Visually Impaired) was established in 1967 in Dianella.
  • Teachers prepared all resources and texts. A part-time paid braille transcriber was employed to assist.
  • The first support teacher for secondary schools was appointed in 1968. This teacher assisted pupils to liaise with the Ladies Braille Society for transcribed resources.
  • At school, secondary students brailled their work, and then self-transcribed through typing, to enable access for sighted teachers.


  • A part-time pre-school for early intervention began in 1973 and the emerging Visiting Teacher Service worked with pre-schoolers at home or in their local pre-school.
  • A Secondary education unit was developed at Morley High School.
  • The first Education Officer, Vision Impairment, for Statewide Educational Services for Children with Vision Impairment was appointed in 1979.


  • The Visiting Teacher Service began in 1980.
  • Residential institute education ceased in 1980s and children were educated in their local area.
  • The Visiting Teacher Service (later named the Vision Education Service) expanded, and Sutherland closed.
  • Full integration occurred in 1981. Visiting Teachers provided specialist instruction and equipment, technologies, resources, visual and tactile aids, and alternative formats.
OUR HISTORY SSENS School of Special Educational Needs Sensory

W.A. Institute and Industrial School for the Blind, Maylands, 1950

Courtesy State Library of Western Australia - Image 008220D

Deaf Education


  • The education of Western Australian children who were Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing began when W. Thomson, a deaf man, and a tailor by trade, arrived in Perth and noted several children with deafness in the community.
  • With his sister and encouraged by influential members of Perth society such as the Brittain and Jecks families who had daughters who were deaf, a school was established.
  • Teaching initially took place in the Brittain home and H. H. Witchell, a highly recommended teacher from the Victorian School for the Deaf, joined the initiative.
  • A school opened in East Perth in late 1896.


  • More children enrolled and the property became too small.
  • The school moved to larger East Perth premises in October 1897 and was named the Western Australian Deaf and Dumb Institution.
  • As the population grew, the school Board of Management looked for land to build a permanent school.


  • A State Government land grant enabled purchase of 4-acres of land at Cottesloe Beach in 1898. Construction commenced soon after.
  • Foundation stone laying occurred in November 1899.
  • The school opened in 1900.

Mr John Love and a class at the Mosman Park School for Deaf Children, 1920s

Courtesy State Library of Western Australia - Image 013437PD.


  • With the death of Witchell in 1926, J. O. Love (resident master of the NSW Institution for the Deaf and Blind) joined what was now the WA School for the Deaf and Dumb, guiding the school through the Depression and World War II years.
  • Love was highly respected by those who shared his commitment to positive educational outcomes.
  • In the early years of Deaf Education, the ‘Combined Method’ of communication - making use of fingerspelling, lipreading and reading/writing was predominant.
  • Later, a complete shift to oralism occurred.


  • Significant rubella epidemics happened in 1939-41


  • Helen Keller and her companion, interpreter Miss P. Thomson, visited the Deaf and Blind schools during their 3-week visit to WA in June 1948.
  • Keller’s visit was considered a brief, but valuable opportunity for staff, students, and parents to gain inspiration.
  • In 1949, the Education Department assumed responsibility, and the existing Board of Management maintained accountability for boarding and accommodation facilities.
  • Significant rubella epidemics happened in 1939-41, and in 1948-49, increasing the number of children with hearing loss.
  • Units for children with partial hearing were established and attached to mainstream schools in Claremont and Cottesloe.
OUR HISTORY SSENS School of Special Educational Needs Sensory

The Woodwork Lesson, 1920, WA School for Deaf Children

Courtesy State Library of Western Australia - Image 013440PD.


  • Educational and residential facilities at Mosman Park, renamed The WA School for Deaf Children in 1956, were at full capacity.
  • A 1959 rubella epidemic caused the population to grow.
  • By the mid-1960s, the oral programme, supported by appropriate amplification technology, was well-established.
  • New school blocks were created in 1964 and 1970 incorporating the latest technology for oral education.
  • Advances in amplification technology, educational pedagogy, and parental and social expectations resulted in various changes in Deaf Education from the 1970s onwards.


  • Most students began attending mainstream schools with support from Visiting Teachers of the Deaf.
  • The Mosman Park school (no longer used for teaching and boarding purposes) became the central location for the Western Australian Institute for Deaf Education (WAIDE).
  • All state-wide services and support for students who are Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing originated from WAIDE.

WA School for Deaf Children, Mosman Park, 1928

Courtesy State Library of Western Australia - Image 013435PD.


WAIDE and the Vision Education Service moved to Padbury to the Statewide Services Centre and the School of Special Educational Needs: Sensory (SSEN: S) began. The Deaf Education Program and the Vision Education Program services teach disability specific curricula aligned to child, student, and school needs - working together to support holistic education for those with hearing loss, vision impairment, or dual-sensory loss.

All images sourced from the collections of the State Library of Western Australia and reproduced with the permission of the Library Board of Western Australia.


The Royal Western Australian Institute for the Blind merged with WA Deaf-Blind Association to become Senses Foundation in 2001.

The Ladies’ Braille Society began in 1913, later becoming the Braille Society and formally merged with Guide Dogs for the Blind in 1977 to become the Association for the Blind of WA (now VisAbility of EverAbility Group).

School of Special Educational Needs: Sensory

This video is about the role of the School of Special Educational Needs: Sensory.

As SSEN: S educational programs and services are government funded, they will be provided at no cost to the school, parents, or guardians of eligible students with hearing loss, vision impairment or dual sensory loss.

At SSEN: S it is our mission to ensure every child with hearing loss, vision impairment or dual sensory loss achieves to their full potential.