Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ontario Ministry Divisions Don't Help Our Kids

While researching this week (more on this on another post - I can't really talk about it yet), I spoke to several parents and I heard the same old refrain:  why can't my child transition from IBI to school more gradually?  Their children are six and seven years old, and they currently receiving intensive ABA treatment, but they would like their kids to be in school part-time.  In Ontario, this is not an option; children are either in full-time IBI (intensive ABA) or they are in school.  The school system does not provide adequate ABA supports because the education system does not provide adequate training or resources in the system.

So, parents are left with two bad options.  They can keep their child in IBI, getting the supports they need to have their child learn, even if they want their kids to socialize at school.  Or, they can leave ABA behind completely and try the school system.  This makes the waiting list worse because parents fight to keep IBI at a cost of $60,000 a year when less expensive supports would work just as well, if the government would allow a gradual transition to school and boards allowed behavioural therapists in the school system.

The parents to whom I spoke want their kids in school now.  But they can't because it means no ABA support.  So they are stuck, and meanwhile 1500 kids can't get service.

Here is what would be, in my opinion, the best solution:
1.  Regulate behavioural therapists so that the education system will not be afraid of them.  The school system allows other regulated professionals in the school, such as occupational therapists, but those therapists are regulated.  This is long overdue in Ontario.

2.  Transfer the Autism Intervention Program (AIP) and School Support Program (SSP) from the Ministry of Child and Youth Services to the Ministry of Education.  One mandate, one minister, one system.

3.  Allow a gradual transfer from intensive ABA to school.  Almost all intervention programs advocate this.  It is more natural, it is what parents want, and it will allow more children to receive service more quickly.

4.  Allow the professionals in (1) into the school system to provide proper supports to teachers and para-educators like educational assistants (EA)s.  Parents will even pay for this, saving the education system money in the long term.  

Thankfully Alanna avoids this whole problem by entering IBI at 2.5 years old.  She will probably be ready to transition by the time she is 5 or 6 years old.  But we are in the minority.  Most children receiving IBI are 6 or 7 because they had to wait 4 years for service.

Does the government ever ask the parents what they should do?  

1 comment:

  1. The current precedent law in Canada (and Ontario) does not require input from parents. Auton v BC in 2000 decided (by the Supreme Court) that the government can do as it desires for those with autism – ASD kids have no rights to anything according to our constitution. Wynberg V ON in 2006 decided that specifically in ON that ASD kids have no right to either therapy or choice. The Supreme Court decided years ago (I think in the 1970’s – I don’t have the reference case but I know the law) that no union agreement will ever be put aside unless it is criminal in provision. Practitioners going in into the school is forbidden by the teacher’s union (some boards may be more cooperative but these ones are the minority). The ASD training for teachers (so wonderfully announced by the Ministry in 2005) is optional since the teacher’s union again came to the support of teachers again. Bottom line – the law in Canada completely protects those that are the providers of service to the entire detriment of those that are to get service. As such, parents are not asked – our kids and us simply do not matter in the decision making process. I have testified at Queen’s Park on many occasions and this is effectively the answer I am given. The recent Select Committee on Mental Health (Ontario) issued a report stating those with ASD have no place in our Mental Health system and offered absolutely no solution (this admission and no action indicates how the law works – yes it is terrible but since no one can compel anyone to do anything nothing gets done). Boards have seen a near doubling of special needs funding over the past decade but all boards say they can not afford to give proper service. The Auditor General of ON stated in the Special Needs Audit of 2008 that the funding for special needs is not being used for special needs in its entirety but again there is no law to support changing anything so the boards can take the money for special needs and spend it on bananas if they want to. Pressing the Minister of Education the answer is “Gee we are arms length, good luck with the schools”. There is a pilot program ongoing now for having Ministry therapists as part of the transition team but this pilot is failing miserably since again the needs of the union are taking precedence and the processes and staff are abysmal. When I asked the Select Committee “What say you?” the only answer I got was an awkward silence.