Last night I had the pleasure of listening to Lindsay Moir speak about issues in autism education. The dude knows what he is about - he knows about issues all over the province and how they have been resolved. A few things I learned!
Ontario Spends More on Special Education Funding Per Student Than Any Other Jurisdiction IN THE WORLD.
I found this one hard to believe. But it's not so hard, when he explained that a lot of this money gets diverted from special education to teacher salaries. Last year, enrollment in the local school board dropped by 1500 kids. Only 15 teacher positions were eliminated. Since we know they were not teaching 100 students each, those teachers must have been re-assigned. Teachers in Ontario are expensive. After five years of teaching, many teachers are making $85,000 per year or more and they have the most powerful union in the province. Not only that, but their massive pension plan (well managed too) owns a lot of businesses, so the politics are very complicated. The claim is that, despite huge losses of Education Assistants (EAs) funding is still flowing - and special education money is being diverted to other areas. This is because special education dollars are allocated on per board basis, not per student or even per school!
Your Child's Rights
I found out our children have the right to:
- Attend school for a full day, if other children can go for a full day.
- Have their needs met properly - can take a variety of forms.
- Go to school if not toilet trained.
- Be properly supervised for lunch if other children are supervised.
There are several grants available to school boards. One, the Special Equipment Amount (SEA), allows parents to buy whatever they need for their kids to succeed at school. There is no cap on this amount. This means that, for example, if we needed a speech output device for Alanna at some point, that would get covered. This is good because these devices cost $10,000 or more. There is another grant to get two attendants (EA / Nurse) if your child has severe behavioural problems or is medically fragile (the first can be authorized by a psychologist). And finally there is a grant to educate staff on autism. This is fantastic because most reasonable teachers and support personnel will take the opportunity to be educated if the training exists!
Ways to get an EA
Lindsay was very clear that EAs are only one way to get needs addressed. The other way is basically relying on "volunteers" - students in post-secondary settings who need placements, or seniors. You cannot pay for an EA in the system because the union grieves that as work contracted out. However, there are ways around this. One woman in Toronto contracted an ABA worker to accompany her son 25 hours a week to school. However, the contract stipulated that she was not paid for those hours - they were volunteer hours. However, the woman paid the worker to be "on call" for 25 hours on the weekend. The fact that she had never called on the worker on the weekend was apparently not important. The school board took her to court on this one but lost. I think this is complete nonsense personally. If a parent is going to fund a support worker, why the heck wouldn't the school want that? Yes they can't "control" them but it frees up resources for elsewhere.
You Need an IPRC For Your Child To Be Legally Exceptional
Many schools just try to put children on Individual Education Plans (IEPs) but if you don't initiate the Individual Placement Review Committee (IPRC) process to get your child officially designated exceptional, then the principal can withdraw services at any time. IPRC kids must always have their needs met as specified by the review committee. You can initiate IPRC on the first day of school.
Thanks to Lindsay for a great information session.