Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Educational Justice

Recently I was made aware of a judicial case where a mother, in Ontario, was trying to place her child in a regular classroom with support.  This had been the scenario since kindergarten, and the student was now moving into grade four.

The special education committee ruled he should be placed in a special education classroom and not in a regular classroom with supports.  The parents appealed this ruling to a court, because they felt this was unfair.  Interestingly, they brought a local expert to argue that the ABA supports the school was offering was inadequate.  However, the tribunal could not force the school board to offer better supports; they could only rule on whether or not the child's placement was adequate.

Many parents are outraged by this.  These kinds of cases scare me because I see our future in them.

My opinion:
Is the ABA support offered by the school sufficient?
Probably not.  Most parents I have spoken to in the Toronto area have told me the ABA implementation in schools is woefully inadequate and many children are not learning in these classes as they were in IBI.

Is the placement valid?
I may get flamed for this, but it would seem that it is more appropriate, if the child is going to remain in school, to go to special education.  If his behaviours are very disruptive to the other students, there is no real choice.  We cannot expect a child who is screaming, stimming, or otherwise engaging in disruptive behaviour to be with a mainstream class because those students will be so distracted they may not learn well.  Additionally, if the student is functioning at a four or five year old level, there is no way they are learning the same curriculum as a mainstreamed grade four class.  It would seem the decision made is a good one.

I think the real underlying complaint in this judicial review is the quality of ABA programming in Ontario schools.  The complaint is that, despite an order from the Ministry of Education - PPM 140 - schools are still not prepared for students on the autism spectrum.  It is truly unfortunate and infuriating that there are private schools that do offer the support needed - for $50,000 a year.  After forking out this amount yearly for private IBI during the preschool years, who has the money left to afford such luxuries?

If school boards cannot provide appropriate supports, then give parents choice in education and issue vouchers like Alberta.  Let us choose the supports for our own children.

Alas, I fear the unions will never let this happen.  Education for all, and better education for the wealthy.  But we don't have two tier education or health, right?

1 comment:

  1. I truly beleive a child can be mainstreamed, if he/she has a proper therapy plan in place and adequate supports. Mainstreaming does not mean the entire day with the regular class, but a very slow gradual process (depending on child needs) of giving the kid 1:1 in a "special education" room and then depending on how much uncertainty they can take (some kids thrive in such an environment, some have a panic attack), integrate them with regular class. I know autistic kids who like art, math, science, physical ed etc.

    ALSO there needs to be reverse integration in some cases. I know a private school runs such a program in downtown Toronto where they get regular kids from another school and integrate them in the special school. If only public schools were willing to do this stuff, then the special kid might not be such a burden for them to handle.

    There are lots of great teaching strategies out there, lots of great tools available, different curriculums, ideas like charter schools and so on....but who will sell that to the TDSB? They aren't buying. Because change is hard and expensive in the short term.