Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fairness in Education

Ontario's public schools have long argued that Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) is a form of "therapy" and thus cannot be delivered in the school system.  Although it is therapeutic in nature, IBI is simply a way of teaching students with autism in an intensive manner (it is just intensive ABA).  The principles of ABA are used daily in schools, whether teachers know they are doing it or not.  When you think about it, most types of "therapy" with the exception of medical procedures are really learning techniques.  Speech therapy is a way of teaching people how to change how they talk and process language.  Physiotherapy (or physical therapy) is a way to teach people how to move their muscles in different ways.  Occupational therapy teaches people how to perform daily living activities.  Psychologists use cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help people learn how to change the way they think.  There is no real practical difference between education and therapy.

Let's examine how special education dollars are spent.  In Ontario, dollars are given to the board on a per student basis but the money does not follow the student.  Thus it is possible to have 100% of the dollars for one student go to a school where that student does not attend.  School boards like this because it gives them maximum funding with maximum flexibility and zero accountability.  If we look at the funding for a full-time educational assistant, we can see they earn between $20-24 an hour for 6.5 hours a day if they are full time.  In this particular link, you can also see there is a special stipulation that the EA in question should be able to translate American Sign Language (ASL), one imagines for a deaf student, but possibly also for a student with autism who uses sign language.

To be an EA, one usually needs a nursing background, an early childhood educator background, or a developmental service worker background, all available through Ontario's colleges. 

To employ an EA full-time at $24/hour for 6.5 hours a day costs the board (excluding benefits and other sundries) about $33,000.  This assumes a 42 week year (I am guessing here - eight weeks for summer plus one week at Christmas and March Break).  If there are benefits, that might bump us up to $37,000 a year.

A typical ABA worker might receive the same hourly rate, without benefits, and with much more training than this EA.  They would be more accountable to parents.  They would allow children with autism to make real gains on an IEP.

So tell me why we hire people to be EAs for children with autism who are not qualified?  If we can require EAs to be ASL interpreters, why can we not require experience with ABA?  And then tell me why we don't hire the people to conduct the education that we know works for less cost?

The problem is not money in the system, it is how it is wasted.  Our kids deserve better. 


  1. Come on, its not like they don't know what ABA is or what teaching is. They also have money. It is just intent and politics. They do not INTEND to bring change, becuase then it would mean they actually have to spend the money. Can we pass a law to make people less greedy or care more? No. So ask yourself, what makes a person less greedy and care more?

  2. I will tell you precisely why - the Supreme Court of Canada has determined that "a collective agreement will not be put aside unless illegal or significantly compelling".

    Every teacher's union agreement forbids the allowing of nonmembers anywhere near the school or class and ASD training (at union agreement time again) is optional for aids and teachers.

    So, unless you are lucky to win the "school lottery" with a sympathetic school/principle this is how it will be. Our legal system has miles or protection for “providers” by not a millimetre for those that need the service.

  3. My son was registered in a special ed class for a full year and only received one hour a day of instruction, for two months. I don't know if the school board received funding as a result of his being registered, but they sure didn't spend it on him.

    Absolutely, funding should be tied to each individual child based on his or her needs. And if a child has needs they can't accommodate for whatever reason, why does the Ontario government not take back the funding and give the money to the parents to purchase educational services privately?

    If public schools have negotiated collective agreements that make it impossible for them to educate kids with disabilities, that was their mistake. Our kids shouldn't have to suffer the consequences.