As the end of the year approaches we have learned that once again our son is going to be losing the EA who has worked with him all year. This is becoming a trend but it also highlights a problem with the way EAs are allocated in this province.
There are without question a system in place for a very few special needs children to retain a specific EA over an extended number of years, however it is generally based on the fact that the child has specific medical needs for which that individual EA has recieved specific training. In the case of autistic children their is only one option and that is if the child maintains the worker who worked with them through their preschool autism training into school and beyond and even then is only in extreme cases.
I do not know if this is caused by an overzealous union fighting to protect their staff and losing sight of the children they are supposed to be caring for, or if it is simply a lack of understanding of some of the base points of autism. Some conversations I have been party to, and have seen progressing seem to imply both are applying.
There are a few things that need to be looked at closely.
1/ If a child’s autism is severe enough to require a full time EA, the EA assigned must not only be compatible with the child but should remain consistent over the vast majority of the child’s school career.
2/ If the EA and the child are not compatible (ie. do not bond) within a reasonable amount of time, then a search needs to be mounted for an EA who is compatible with the child and who the child will bond well with and therefore work well for.
3/ some schools operate on a principle of using a split EA team (two or more EA’s splitting large chunks of the day) so that the children dont bond closely with the EA, not realizing this lack of a bond reduces the child’s willingness to work for either EA and increasing behaviours.
We need to realize that EAs and autistic children work best when a bond forms between them, it usually means the child is going to be more willing to work for that individual EA and more responsibe to them. It also means that, that specific EA will also be in tune to the child more closely and know intuitively when they are having an off day, what might set them off in a given situation, see signs of impending behaviours, understand what the child needs to have happen to reduce/remove those behaviours. More importantly many of the EA/child teams that bond well often can deal with these issues with minimal to no disruption in a class.
Here in NB we are again at a point where the EAs and Department of Education have been without a contract since February to my understanding. It provides us the optimum time to look at this issue closely and because of this I am going to suggest a give and take situation that will provide the best solution for both the EAs and the children they care for.
- If a child requires a full time EA then a compatible full time EA needs to be found and assigned to the child for the long term (potentially to the end of high school) or until the child and the EA become no longer compatible.
- EAs need to stop being treated as casual staff and instead be treated as permanent full time employees with a prorated type contract similar to that given to teachers. They are doing a very vital job and it needs to be recognized as such.
- EAs who are assigned to an individual child are not included in the bumping process and do not count against a schools allotment, they gain seniority as normal however do not get bumped while they are with a full time child.
- EA seniority will accumulate from all districts within the province and not just within each individual district
My challenge to both the Minister of Education Department and the Union for the EAs is to put in place a system that takes into account the needs of the children placed in their care. I challenge the Minister of Education and CUPE local 2745 to agree to put the 4 changes in place on an interim basis starting immediately until the next contract is signed and to include this into the next contract. I challenge you to do this in the best interests of the children
Inclusion has been discussed on this blog in the past. I have looked at pluses and minuses in the system and while there are always issues in almost any government created program, the overall goal of the program is one that is too good to throw out.
Recently the outgoing head of the New Brunswick Teachers Association indicated that she felt that the funds used on inclusion could be better used elsewhere in the system. She also felt that disruptive incidents by special needs children made it hard for the other students in the class to apply themselves properly. Then she said that she intended to return to her position as a principal now that her term was up. That to me is incredibly troubling.
Inclusion works when the participants in the program are on board. If some of the participants are not in favour of the program it can create serious issues and those issues are a large part of what leads to the disruptive incidents in class. To put her back into the system as a principal is going to be damaging to any student with special needs that is a member of the school she is connected to because it is going to be one more person in the system that is going to be working against the program. What I would love to do is offer her the opportunity to see what Inclusion looks like when it is actually applied correctly. I would love to have Ms. Smith and Jody Carr (the minister of education and a strong Inclusion supporter) the opportunity to observe my son in his classroom, to see how he behaves, how his EA deals with him, how his class deals with him and how his teacher deals with him. Our son is a prime example of Inclusion working properly. But that was not always the case, Mr Carr in checking through his communication records is likely to be able to see a time when our son was having difficulties in a school where Inclusion was not working to the optimum and where our son was one of the disruptions Ms. Smith discusses. The differences after two years in the new school and in a system that is working well will show just how good Inclusion can be and how it is supposed to work.
Inclusion is a teamwork exercise. It requires the active participation of not only the EA, but also the entire resource department, the classroom teacher, the school administration and the parents. It requires that not only do all of these individuals be on board with the Inclusion process but it also requires that these parties all participate in active discussions on how to best make sure that not only is the child functioning well within the school system, but that all participants understand exactly where the line needs to be drawn. ie. does the child need to be removed from the classroom temporarily on an ongoing basis to help them cope with overstimulation. Does this need to be on a timed schedule or is the child functioning well enough that it can be done on an as needed basis.
Our son functions so well within his classroom because his EA is fully aware of his quirks and the signs of when he needs a break, he also functions so well because his teacher integrates him into the class for all normal presentations and activities even though he is essentially non verbal. He functions as well as he does because when he needs a break his EA is able to see the issue developing and remove him from the situation before it can become a problem for himself, his class or his teacher. And his class uses him as a benchmark and thrive on his accomplishments largely because with his behaviours being so well controlled by a great team, his marks and school work put him at or above the class average in almost all areas. All while being essentially non verbal and largely uncommunicative.
My son used to be a model of the broken aspects of the Inclusion program. Now he is a model of how it can really work.
The most important part of the inclusion, over and above the fact that he is learning at a greater rate then he would under the old segregated system, is the fact that his classmates are looking at him as an example of autism, they are seeing that he is different, but he is also the same and they are seeing that he is one of them. That is what the most important facet of inclusion is. Teaching the students of today that the discrimination that used to happen against special needs children is wrong and that we must never go back, because they are an important part of the our world and they have a lot to contribute to it.
On Tuesday a family in Ottawa, Ontario in Canada took their son to the local Social Development office and handed him over to the government because they were no longer able to care for him. Their son is autistic, is a huge flight risk, needing almost constant surveillance and functions on the level of a three year old.
Days later another mother from Ontario is suggesting she may be required to do the same thing with her autistic daughter who functions on the level of a two year old. Another mother is questioning what will happen when her son is no longer allowed to attend school because of his age.
This is the side of the Autistic Community that is unfortunately getting left out of many equations. With the increase in the number of diagnoses in the area of high functioning autism, many on the aspergers sector of the spectrum, those who are on the extreme low end of the autism spectrum are not getting the services they need.
There are deep divisions within the autistic community. Those divisions run along several lines. One of those lines is the question of vaccine damage vs no vaccine damage. Another one is along the lines of the need to cure autism. A further one is the neccessity of treating autism at all etc. And these are all taking place within the autistic community.
These divisions are largely created by the size and scope of the autistic spectrum, It is also caused by the fact that those on the spectrum themselves that actually can speak for themselves are generally quite happy with themselves as they are and do not see the need for any research into causes and cures, or even treatment feeling instead that to research into these areas implies that they are is some way damaged and need change. For themselves they are likely right. The problem is that the group who can not speak for themselves and require almost constant care to meet the daily requirements of daily living or even the basics of safety are drowned out because they can not speak for themselves and the parents and advocates for them are often dismissed because they do not have autism themselves.
I have often suggested that the best comparison to autism is cancer, not because of it’s fatality rate (autism itself is not fatal in any way) but in the vast differences that are seen in it’s various forms. Breast cancer, prostrate cancer, Leukemia, Lung Cancer, Skin Cancer and various other cancers are all researched and treated separately. This is done because they are all different, have different causes, and in many cases have different “cures” depending on the severity and type of cancer involved.
Until we within the autistic community start to realize that autism needs to be looked at completely and honestly from all perspectives, and that each segment of the autistic community needs to be researched separately, that there are likely far more then one single cause of autism and that there are likely far more then one single cure and/or treatment required we will not progress towards fixing what is starting to look like an epidemic that could slowly grow into uncontrollable levels.
We need to recognize that some need more care then others, that what helps one autistic individual may actually have an adverse affect on another and that we can not keep ignoring those who need the most help.
We as a community need to start to develop a single solid push to get things accomplished instead of pulling a half dozen different ways or more and not getting any attention because we are so easy to ignore simply by playing one group against another. Those who need treatment, help and longterm care deserve to be able to access it. Those who do not feel the need do not have to use those services if they are capable and happy in the level they function.
Contact: Liza Coppola
The Mother Company Hosts
Round Up of Autism Awareness Month with
Los Angeles—April 29, 2013— The Mother Company, a multi-media company devoted to “Helping Parents Raise Good People” is thrilled to host a twitter chat with key influencers in the field of autism to answer questions and engage in conversation about how autism affects all of our lives. The chat will be held on Twitter – just search for hashtag: #MOCOchat and follow @mocomama and follow #MOCOChat the day of for roundtable twitter chat at 4/30,12pmPST/3pmEST.
“Our hope is to engage the community of parents who have kids on the autism spectrum, as well as those who are curious about the many issues at hand.” Says The Mother Company’s Founder, Abbie Schiller. According to USA Today, a new government study reports about 1 out of 50 children land on the autism spectrum. “Autism touches all of our lives and we want to discuss the needs of these kids, many of whom are mainstreamed into our educational system (often without proper resources).” Adds Samantha Kurtzman-Counter, The Mother Company’s President. “We want to be here for the parents, too.”
Please join us for the Twitter chat. Let’s help build that village!
WHAT: The Mother Company Twitter chat to talk about autism in honor of Autism Awareness Month
WHEN: Tuesday, April 30th, NoonPT/3pmET
WHERE: Twitter! Search for hashtag: #MOCOchat and follow #MOCOChat the day of for roundtable twitter chat about All of Us & Autism. 4/30,12pmPST/3pmEST.
Follow The Mother Company @TheMotherCo
WHO: All of us. We are all involved. Please invite your friends, and spread the word to your networks by tweeting: Join @TheMotherCo
Anna Kennedy was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her significant role of service in the Autism and special needs community. She is an advocate, author, and founder of two highly successful schools for children on the autistic spectrum. Both of her sons are on the spectrum.
Karen Simmons, founder/CEO of Autism Today© is the mother to six, two of which have special needs. A best selling author, she’s written four widely cherished books, and two CD’s including, the Gold Medal recipient, and “The Official Autism 101 Manual.” She co-authored with Jack Canfield and others “Chicken Soup For The Soul, Children with Special Needs.” She’s a world leader, speaker and conference coordinator in autism information, research and resources.
Chantal Sicile-Kira is an award-winning author, speaker, and leader in the field of autism. She has been involved with autism spectrum disorders for over 20 years as both a parent and a professional on both sides of the Atlantic. Recently, Chantal founded AutismCollege.com in order to provide more information and training to parents and educators.
Lisa Goring is Vice President, Family Services at Autism Speaks. Her role is to empower families and individuals impacted by autism, promote research funding that yields evidence for best practices, and to advocate for the implementation of those best practices in autism treatment, education, and services. She has two children, one of whom has autism.
Lawrence Korchnak is the Vice President of Development at Autism Society. The Autism Society’s efforts are focused on meaningful participation and self-determination in all aspects of life for individuals on the autism spectrum and their families. The Autism Society promotes individual, parental and guardian choice to assure that people on the autism spectrum are treated with dignity and respect.
About The Mother Company:
The Mother Company is driven by the mission of “Helping Parents Raise Good People” with a comprehensive parenting advice website (TheMotherCo.com) and their “Ruby’s Studio” children’s imprint, which features line of award-winning videos – on DVD and Download – books, eBooks, apps, activity kits and more. In addition to helping children navigate social and emotional issues, The Mother Company helps parents find the tools and discussions to alleviate some of the stress of everyday parenting. The company’s website features world-renowned expert articles from the likes of parenting guru/authors Dr. Andrew Weil, Kim John Payne, Dr. Michele Borba, and Dr. Laura Berman, on topics of discipline, behavior, and family harmony. Additional information on The Mother Company can be found at www.TheMotherCo.com.