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(Canada) Quebec criticized for NOT helping kids with autism

Dec 27, 2018, Montreal Gazette: Opinion: Quebec fails to meet the needs of children with autism Sharon McCarry is the mother of a 15-year-old son with autism, an autism advocate and the executive director of The Little Red Playhouse, an early education/intervention centre. Stretching the education budget won't make up for health ministry's failure to deliver services to kids with autism early in their diagnosis. Before 2005, I did not think very much about the public education system and the options available to parents of children with disabilities. When my second child was diagnosed with autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder that includes communication and behaviour challenges, among other issues, the educational options were limited. Unfortunately, that’s still the case. A child with autism at school age can thrive with the right supports, yet supports for kids with autism in schools across Quebec have not changed very much in the last 20 years. … Unfortunately, at age five, my son was turned away by both because of limited spaces and because he didn’t fit their specific profile. So where do kids go if they don’t get to attend a specialized school with staff trained in the educational and therapeutic best practices for autism? They go to the public-school system. According to a recent report, the education ministry plans to provide more specialists in the classroom to help students with autism, but the details were vague. I’m hopeful, but I worry this is just a well-meaning Band-Aid to a bigger issue.

Children in Quebec with autism are diagnosed late and are still waiting for years before they get any intervention — even though early intervention is supported by the best evidence. Only the few parents who can afford robust private therapies are really able to get their children with autism prepared to enter the public-school system ready to learn. And the reality is that most young children with autism are integrated into a regular classroom with anywhere from 20-28 students with inadequate supports. Currently in Montreal, there is one aide or childcare worker allocated to a student with autism for 13 hours a week in the classroom. The hours were reduced from 26 hours a week from the 2009-2010 budget. Neither teachers nor childcare workers are required to have special education certificates. Children with autism who have or develop more challenging behaviours are put into smaller group classes in the public system, typically four students, one teacher and one childcare worker. … So, the problem grows. Throwing a few more helpers into the school system will not be enough. …

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