A recent CBC article discussed opening the program used to teach EAs how to deal with autistic children, to parents of autistic children as well. In case the link breaks I will include the article in italics below.
The University of New Brunswick in Fredericton will expand its autism-training program to include the general public this fall.
Lloyd Henderson, the executive director of Extended Learning at UNB, said he’s excited.
For the first time in the province, a course that is helping teachers and education assistants work with autistic children and adults will be offered to the public.
“Parents are going to have, or anyone else who takes this course is going to have, access to that same quality and intensity of education so they are all singing from the same songbook if you will,” Henderson said.
Henderson said consistency is key to helping autistic children.
“When you have something happening in the preschool centre and it’s different at home and different again when they go to school, that will be very disconcerting to some of these children.”
Since 2004, more than 900 teachers and education assistants have graduated from the 12-week university-level course.
“We have many success stories where we see [a child] now can sit in the gymnasium with his peers, and he can sit there and doesn’t have to run away or they don’t have to chase him down the hall or he doesn’t need to scream,” said Francyne Jutras, the autism intervention training director.
It is estimated that 190,000 Canadian children are autistic, and according to experts the number keeps climbing.
“My heart is for those children; that’s my main concern,” said Jutras.
“Every time I think about a mother – I am a mom with two children and I think about a mom doesn’t sleep all night because she has a child with whatever the behaviour is, my heart goes to her so the only way I can help her is provide the course.”
The course begins in September. The cost is $4,600. Scholarships are available from the college.
This program is good. Allowing access to the public is great. It will give the parents ADDITIONAL tools to help them learn and cope with their children.
However there is a couple of really huge BUTs involved in this discussion
1. “We have many success stories where we see [a child] now can sit in the gymnasium with his peers, and he can sit there and doesn’t have to run away or they don’t have to chase him down the hall or he doesn’t need to scream,” said Francyne Jutras, the autism intervention training director.
This is unreasonable expectations and puts more pressure on an autistic student then can perhaps be reasonably expected. Those behaviours may be minimized in some students, they may be even almost eliminated in a select few, however the reality is the overall grouping of autistics will see a REDUCTION in this type of behaviour if we are lucky and hit the right techniques for that individual student.
2. “Parents are going to have, or anyone else who takes this course is going to have, access to that same quality and intensity of education so they are all singing from the same songbook if you will,” Henderson said.
Henderson said consistency is key to helping autistic children.
This is perhaps the most troubling statement I have seen. The last portion about consistency is completely accurate, however the implication that Henderson makes in this statement is that EAs who have gone through this training program know exactly what the child needs while parents have little to no clue.
I am troubled by this statement specifically for a couple of reasons. First because I have seen this type of attitude (even had the words “if you used our methods at home we would be farther ahead” to which I responded ” If you used the techniques we have found to work at home over the last three years, we would not be losing so much ground.”)
The attitude that I have seen from some EA’s and some other medical professionals, is that as parents we do not have the knowledge or education to make decisions on our child’s care and or treatment and that without a medical degree or specialized training we have absolutely no clue what our child needs to succeed. This is a complete fallacy that must be ended before we can start to make serious progress in how autistic children are treated.
Parent’s of autistic children are there when their child first starts to show signs of autistic tendencies, they are there through the formative years as they try to find methods of treating their specific child that actually works. I think perhaps the most disturbing thing I have seen when looking through medical material, and treatment guides as well as dealing with some of those who work with treating autism, is the belief that what works in one will work in all, and that there is one root cause and one treatment of autism.
Autism is a spectrum disease and while many people tend to look at it as a sliding scale, over the years I have evolved my thoughts on that to look at it from the perspective that autism is like a sphere with many different factors.
- Developmental Delays
- Related illnesses ( Epilepsy, ODD, ADD, ADHD etc.) all of which may or may not exist in different autistics.
- Cognitive Function
If you take each one of those points (including a separate point for each related illness) and place them in a spherical scale, you would find that no two autistics are completely the same. By the same token, no two autistics will be treatable by the exact same method. Each time an EA is faced with a new autistic child they will need to entirely rethink how they treat that child so that the child has the best chances of success. In that rethinking process the most valuable resource in understanding what works and what does not is the parents of that specific autistic child.
So while giving the parent’s access to this course is laudable, there is still some work that needs to be done, so that EAs and parents can work together effectively in the best interests of the child.
There is one additional point that needs to be looked at when discussing this course, and that is the cost as well as the timing and location. This is a twelve week long course held in Fredericton at a cost of 4600 dollars. Any of these points would make this course difficult for many parents of autistic children, both the location and length which would mean parents would need to be away from their children for 12 weeks as these children are located all over the province not just in Fredericton. The cost alone would make the course unreachable for many parents as often families with autistic children have only one parent working, and spend the majority of their excess funds (if such a thing truly exists) on repairing or replacing items damaged during various episodes by the children as well as seeking additional treatments and techniques to give their child the best chances for success.
The intent of allowing access to parents is laudable, but the approach of the course overall as well as the delivery of the course needs to change to make it feasible to most parents of autistic children.