Autism Reality

Autism & ABA- Irish Education Minister Spins Old, Flawed Argument


Minister for Education & Science, Mary Hanafin T.D.

In reading news today from Ireland I had a strong sense of deja vu. Irish Education Minister Mary Hanafin persists in rejecting calls for ABA based education for Irish students with autism. Her argument? There are several suitable forms of education that are available in Ireland. The article does not provide any quotes or indications of what these several suitable forms might be and the Minister was criticized by a professional member of her own government’s autism task force. In New Brunswick our Department of Education used similar arguments for several years to resist provision of ABA based education for autistic students for several years. ABA is heavily documented as an effective evidence based approach to educating students with autism. The mysterious “several suitable forms” other than ABA have yet to be documented.


The Minister for Education is coming under fire from a leading expert over her approach to dealing with autism.

Minister Mary Hanafin has repeatedly rejected calls from parents for the introduction of the expensive Applied Behavioural Analysis method for teaching autistic children.

Doctors say it is the most effective method, but Ms Hanafin is continuing to insist that there are several suitable forms of education that are available in Ireland.

Dr Rita Honan, a member of the department’s own task force on autism, has now come out and said that the approach advocated by Ms Hanafin has no scientific basis and ABA has been proven to be more successful than any other teaching programme.

She also says the minister’s stance makes no financial sense as the expensive ABA programme can lead to substantial savings in the long run.

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/breaking-news/ireland/article2528459.ece

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May 19, 2007 Posted by | aba, Applied Behavior Analysis, autism disorder, autism education, Ireland, Mary Hanafin | Leave a comment

Good News from Ontario on Autism & Education – ABA in Ontario Schools



Good news for autistic students in Ontario. The government of Ontario is directing ALL school boards to provide Applied Behaviour Analysis to all students with autism.

TORONTO, May 17 /CNW/ – The McGuinty government is improving the learning environment for students with autism spectrum disorders by directing all school boards to provide Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), Education Minister Kathleen Wynne announced today.

“All students with autism deserve equal access to this vital teaching
approach that can improve their focus on individual projects and strengthen
their communication with other students in the classroom,” said Wynne.
“We are implementing our plan to ensure students with autism receive the
best education possible.”

The Ministry of Education instructed school boards today that they must
provide programs that use ABA methods to students who need it. This
directive is part of the government’s response to the recommendations of
Autism Reference Group report, Making a Difference for Students with
Autism Spectrum Disorders in Ontario Schools: From Evidence to Action,
received earlier this year.

The implementation of ABA will be supported by extensive staff training
starting with six to eight representatives, including superintendents,
principals, teachers, teaching assistants, school support staff and Special
Education Advisory Committee members, from each school board over the
next two months. This will be followed by school team training – funded
through a $1-million investment – for up to 1,400 principals, educational
assistants and teachers over the summer months.

Additionally, the government has provided a grant of $2.75 million to
the Geneva Centre for Autism. “We are very grateful for the government’s
support so we can provide further training on ABA approaches to school
staff in the fall,” said Margaret Whelan, Executive Director of the Geneva
Centre for Autism. “This investment will allow educators to help more
students with autism succeed.”

May 17, 2007 Posted by | aba, Applied Behavior Analysis, autism disorder, autism education, Dalton McGuinty, Liberal Party, Ontario, schools | 3 Comments

Autism Quotes # 1

“If a child cannot learn in the way we teach … we must teach in a way the child can learn.”

Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas

“When Jack was diagnosed we were devastated at that thought of what life might be like for him. Now he can talk. ABA is hard work, but it has opened up a whole range of opportunities for him. Life just keeps getting better.”

Charmaine Fraser, Mother of Autistic Son, Australia

So we’re choosing to tell our daughter’s story now, after being quiet about it for the last 16 months: to emphasize how important it is that this bill pass in its original form. If it seems opportunistic or self-serving, well…there’s not much I can say about that, except that things like ABA and other therapy programs would seem to be the point of insurance: to insure the well-being of these kids who otherwise would be without hope for a future.

Finally, the only thing that really gave me pause about posting this was something that was said to me about the possibility SWSNBN might read this later on in her life and be mortified. My only response to that is this: I’m not a religious person, so prayer is out of the question, but I hope beyond anything I have ever hoped in my miserable life that my daughter, at some point in the future, is able to read this blog and yell at her father about it. I want that so badly it physically hurts.”

Pete, A Perfectly Cromulent Blog, Father of Autistic Daughter, Texas

May 17, 2007 Posted by | aba, Applied Behavior Analysis, autism awareness, autism disorder, autism education, autism therapy, Lovaas | Leave a comment

Shawn Graham’s Autism Promise – A Promise Kept


[Above Premier Shawn Graham; Premier Graham, MP Andy Scott, Autism Connexions director Lana Thomson and some young helpers at the Autism Connexions grand opening]

Since the election of the Shawn Graham led Liberal Party as the government of New Brunswick in September I have made several different comments on the subject of Premier Graham’s autism training promise that he made during the election campaign. The tone and substance of my comments varied depending on other developments that were taking place. During the campaign Mr. Graham promised that a Liberal government would train 100 Teachers Aides and Resource Teachers a year for 4 years at the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training program. The Autism Society New Brunswick has trust and confidence in the quality and integrity of the UNB-CEL AIT program. Fulfillment of this commitment will place New Brunswick in the forefront of delivery of real education services to our autistic students.

Despite Mr. Graham’s well known commitment there was continued resistance by some officials responsible for oversight and delivery of such programs. In the last two weeks that resistance reached a previously unimaginable ferocity with an alternative proposal still being pushed very aggressively by some civil servants. The alternative proposal was, putting it politely, fundamentally flawed. Fortunately, Premier Shawn Graham and Education Minister Kelly Lamrock stepped in and confirmed beyond any doubt that the 400 in 4 years UNB-CEL AIT training commitment for TA’s and Resource Teachers would be implemented. Yesterday I participated in a Dialogue on Education Committee meeting with other “stakeholder” representatives and Education Department officials at which that commitment was confirmed with the first 100 persons expected to begin the course in October.

I am very happy that Premier Graham is keeping his autism promise and implementing the training commitment he made on behalf of autistic students in New Brunswick. In some provinces opposition leaders made promises to autism parent advocates and then abandoned those promises and used the power of government to fight the very parents and their autistic children they had promised to help. During his time as opposition leader in New Brunswick Shawn Graham stood with those of us who were protesting outside the New Brunswick legislature seeking evidence based autism interventions for out children and lent his voice and support. In government Premier Graham has not abandoned us. He has kept his word. He is honouring his commitment.

Thank you Premier Graham.

May 12, 2007 Posted by | autism disorder, autism education, Autism Society New Brunswick, election promises, Kelly Lamrock, Shawn Graham, teachers aides, UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training Program | Leave a comment

"We Can Do Better" – Flashback – May 2004 Autism Education Rally

Autism advocacy is never easy as illustrated by this article covering a May 2004 rally held to push for ABA based instruction for autistic children in NB schools. At that time Conservative Family & Community Services Minister Tony Huntjens stated that an education program was being set up at UNB to train teachers to provide ABA based instruction. In fact the Conservatives did provide for approximately 85 Resource Teachers and Teachers Aides to be trained at UNB-CEL’s Autism Intervention Training Program, a small but important first step in addressing the needs of New Brunswick’s autistic students. Subsequently Liberal Opposition Leader Shawn Graham promised to train 100 TA’s and Resource Teachers per year for 4 years at the nationally recognized UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training program. Unfortunately, all signs now indicate that the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training training will not be provided as promised by Premier Graham. Unfortunately, it does not look like the Liberal government “can do better” as opposition critic Kelly Lamrock, now the Minister of Education, once boldly asserted.

Daily Gleaner | Provincial News
As published on page A3 on May 4, 2004

Parents march to protest tight funding for autism
Group contends age ceiling leaves many stranded

PROTEST:
(The Daily Gleaner/Dave Smith Photo)
Dawn Bowie, left, a parent of an autistic child, and 11-year-

JOEL O’KANE
for The Daily Gleaner

Frustrated parents picketed outside the Centennial Building on Saturday
against what they call “discriminate funding policies” by the Lord
government when it comes to educating children with autism.

“We’re here so children of school age can benefit from the funding, because
right now it’s discrimination,” said Nancy Blanchette, who chairs the Family
Autism Centre for Education (FACE).

Currently, parents with autistic children can receive funding aid for their
child’s special needs, but only up to age five.

Once they grow old, or enter the school system, the funding dries up.

Parents argue that they need the funding to pay for special education for
their children, such as applied behavioural analysis (ABA). They say that the
early intervention ABA offers for their children has made great differences,
but it isn’t cheap.

“My son Justin was diagnosed with autism when he was about two years
old,” said parent and FACE board member Dawn Bowie. “Back then, we
couldn’t find much support around. There was none.”

Bowie said the family did know about ABA, and was able to be evaluated
by a child psychologist who’s an expert in the field.

“We paid big, big money. Tens of thousands of dollars. And we’re still paying
big, big money.”

ABA works one on one with an autistic child to pinpoint behavioural
problems and works to correct them. It teaches routine, responsibility,
and normal behaviour to children with autism.

Parents say that autistic children who receive ABA intervention are less
disruptive in school, and more apt to become socially involved.

However, many parents say the current funding is useless unless the age
restriction is lifted and children can continue to receive ABA after they enter
the public school system.

“We want to let the government know that autism doesn’t go away at the age
of five,” said Blanchette. “A lot of children aren’t even diagnosed until
later than this, so there’s still progress to be made to help them reach
their full potential.

“If (Premier) Bernard Lord’s touting his quality learning agenda, where no
child gets left behind, he has to understand that this also applies to children
with special needs in the school system.”

FACE had publicly invited Lord to come out and talk to the crowd
on the weekend, but was instead greeted by Fredericton Liberal
MLA Kelly Lamrock.

“We can do better. We know the options,” he said. “We know that
ABA treatment works. Premier Bernard Lord says he has to make
tough choices? I say he made bad choices and cut taxes. If you
can get up every day and deal with this, you deserve the Liberals’
support.”

Tony Huntjens, minister of Family and Community Services, says that
the current funding system is new, and it will take time to work out
the kinks.

“First, we need to tackle autism at an early age, because that is
where most good can be done,” he said. “Once they get to age six or
enter the public school system, these children can work with their
teachers.”

Huntjens said the Lord government has no intention of raising the age
limit for autism funding.

Parents say that children with autism need to have ABA throughout
their childhood, and that leaving the problem to the teachers when
their children enter school will only put more strain on the public
school system.

“I’ve told Minister Huntjens that he might as well throw his money to
these families over the Westmorland Street Bridge,” said Dawn Bowie.
“The progress ABA makes stops after these kids get to school, so what
good is that?”

Huntjens said an education course is being set up at the
University of New Brunswick that will train interested teachers to
provide ABA to potentially autistic students.

May 3, 2007 Posted by | aba, applied behaviour analysis, autism advocacy, autism disorder, autism education, commitment, Education Minister Kelly Lamrock, Premier Shawn Graham, Tony Huntjens | Leave a comment

Autism : Irish Protest Failure to Fund ABA Schools for Autistic Persons


New Brunswick and other Atlantic Provinces have strong historical ties to Ireland as many of our citizens arrived here escaping the destitution of mid-19th Century Ireland. Their descendants, including the occasional autism blogger, form a significant part of the local population today. We also have in common a reluctance on the part of government decision makers are to take the necessary action to provide needed ABA based educational instruction to autistic persons.

Autism protesters slam funding of specialist education

Several hundred parents and supporters have protested outside Leinster House over the Government’s failure to properly fund applied behavioural analysis schools for autistic persons.

Three hundred and forty-seven black balloons, one for each child currently on waiting lists for ABA schools, were released into the air outside the main gates of Leinster House.

Irish Autism Action spokesperson, Mark De Silvo, said the Government is out of touch when it comes to education for those with autism.

http://tinyurl.com/33728l

April 27, 2007 Posted by | aba, applied behavioral analysis, autism advocacy, autism disorder, autism education, autism protest, Ireland, Irish Autism Action, Mark De Silvo | Leave a comment

The Face of Autism – Loss of funding spells loss of skills


The Daily Gleaner/David Smith ph

I have on previous comments applauded New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham and the Liberal government for its promise to train 100 TA’s and Resource Teachers a year at the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training program. Some TA’s and teachers have already received the training but the commitment made during the election campaign by Mr. Graham is being held up now and, it appears at least, that the commitment is in serious danger of being abandoned or watered down beyond recognition, replaced by in house training by the Department or some other “innovative” alternative. While we remain hopeful that the pledge will be honored we are aware of positioning by the Department of Education officials that would see training of much less quality and integrity than the UNB-CEL program offered by the Department. The attached article from the Daily Gleaner here in Fredericton New Brunswick illustrates the predicament faced by autistic children who have been receiving intervention when the turn five years of age in New Brunswick.



Loss of funding spells loss of skills

By JACQUELINE LEBLANC
leblanc.jacqueline@dailygleaner.com
Published Monday April 23rd, 2007
Appeared on page A1

Tying shoes is a simple task for most eight year olds.

But for Austin O’Donnell, it takes a little more practice.

Austin is autistic, and through intervention therapy, he learns many skills that don’t come easily to him.

Just tying his shoes was broken down into 25 steps to make the task easier for him to remember.

But without continuing the therapy, his mother Jennifer O’Donnell worries Austin may lose some of the skills he worked so hard to acquire.

The government funds an intervention program for preschool-aged autistic children.

Applied behavioral analysis intervention therapy is the most popular and most successful therapy for autistic children. It’s not a cure for autism, but it helps children reach their maximum potential.

But once the child enters kindergarten, the funding stops. But that doesn’t mean the intervention should stop too, said O’Donnell.

That means big money for parents who have to hire the intervention workers themselves.

For the last three years, O’Donnell has organized a benefit dance to try to raise enough money to be able to hire an intervention worker to spend time with Austin every week.

“There are no resources,” she said. “I’m a single parent. I’ve worked two jobs and held the benefit dance for the last three years to split the bill financially. And I’m willing to do that.

“If I don’t fund raise, he simply won’t have it. To me, that’s just not an option. I’m hoping at some point that there’s going to be a change, where (the government) provides some funding.”

Austin was diagnosed with autism when he was four, so he only took advantage of the therapy for eight months before the money stopped.

“I knew the funding would be cut when he entered school,” she said. “I knew that in my mind, but it didn’t really hit me that there was nothing. And, when it happened, I just thought quickly, how can I raise money to continue this?”

The dance usually helps fund about eight to 10 months of intervention therapy.

Most autistic children have a teacher’s assistant in the classroom. But they’re not all trained for autism intervention.

Harold Doherty is with the Autism Society of New Brunswick. His 11-year-old son Conor is autistic.

He said it’s important that the intervention therapy follows the children into the schools.

One way of doing that, he said, is training the teacher’s assistants (TAs) to be qualified to do autism intervention.

“We’re pushing to get the TAs trained,” he said. “If you’re going to have a TA anyway, that you need in most cases, why not train them in some way to be effective to help the children learn?”

There is a course at the University of New Brunswick that trains resource teachers and teacher’s assistants in autism intervention.

Doherty said the Liberal government promised that it would train 100 teacher’s assistants and resource teachers at UNB per year for four years.

This would help autistic children have a chance to have a trained teacher’s assistant.

Yet, Doherty said, there still hasn’t been any move on the promise, and the autism society is worried the government is stepping back, or planning on watering down the promise.

But O’Donnell can’t wait for the teacher’s assistants to be able to take over the intervention work. Austin needs the help now, she said.

“He’s beginning to get to an age where he’s struggling socially,” she said.

“And that’s a big deal because if he’s having troubles at school in that way, then it’s causing a whole other can of worms.

Loss of funding spells loss of skills

“Not wanting to be at school, and being upset all the time, and not really understanding why he doesn’t have friends or why he has such a hard time keeping friends. We’ve been working on that for the last year.”

O’Donnell works with her son on evenings and weekends at home, but she said he needs more intervention time than that.

She said every little bit of therapy can help her son in big ways.

The benefit dance will be held Saturday, April 28, at the Tier II Lounge, above Winners Restaurant on the exhibition grounds at 9 p.m.

Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at Mazzuca’s on York Street.

April 23, 2007 Posted by | applied behavioral analysis, autism education, autism interventions, Education Minister Kelly Lamrock, election promises, Premier Shawn Graham, resource teachers, teachers aides | 2 Comments

Autism Dad’s Concerns About Role of Premier’s Council on the Status of Disabled Persons

Following is a letter I forwarded to the Premier’s Council on the Status of Disabled Persons. New Brunswick has just spent the last few 2-3 years reviewing its inclusive education system which has focussed on mainstream classroom inclusion for all students. As mentioned in the letter this approach does not work for ALL students including some autistic students such as my son. Our Education Department HAS provided for exceptions for students such as my son,providing an alternate learning environment and when available trained Teachers’ Aides. The Department is now working to improve the deficit of trained personnel to work with our many autistic school children. But it makes no sense to engage in a review and make services available if educators and parents are pressured to place all children in the mainstream classroom regardless of whether they are well served by such placement.

From: HAROLD L DOHERTY [mailto:dohertylaw@rogers.com]
Sent: March 28, 2007 11:43 AM
To: PCSDP@gnb.ca
Subject: Inclusive Education Quiz

March 28 2007

Mr. Randy Dickinson and
Mr. Gary Comeau
Premier’s Council on the Status of Disabled Persons

Re “Quiz Contest Promotes Inclusive Education in New Brunswick (07/03/22)”

I am the father of an 11 year old profoundly autistic boy. I participated both as an individual parent and as the representative of two provincial autism organizations at different stages of the Mackay Inclusive Education review process. I currently sit as the Autism Society New Brunswick representative on the Ministerial Committee on Inclusive Education.

At this time, I express my own personal views, in stating that I take exception to the use of the office and resources of the Premier’s Council on the Status of Disabled Persons to promote one view of the merits of a full inclusion system in New Brunswick schools. There are many diverging points of view with respect to the emphasis on mainstream classroom inclusion for all students regardless of disability or ability.

Some profoundly autistic children are overwhelmed by classroom environment stimulation and require a quieter learning environment where they learn a different curriculum by different teaching methods than children their own age. Other disability organizations have also expressed some reservations about the over emphasis on full mainstream inclusive education. One of the great disadvantages of the inclusion revolution which has dominated New Brunswick schools for the past 30 years has been the lost of specialized expertise in teaching children with specific disabilities a problem which is currently being addressed for autistic children by the training of Teachers’ Aides and Resource Teachers at the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training Program.

Reducing these complex issues to a quiz format with correct answers being those which support the status quo emphasis on mainstream classroom inclusion for all is, in my view, an inappropriate use of public resources of your office.

Respectfully,

Harold L Doherty

March 28, 2007 Posted by | autism disorder, autism education, inclusion, New Brunswick, Wayne MacKay | Leave a comment

Strange Son Online Autism Community – A Welcome Autism Internet Addition

We are forming a new online social network to connect people who want to share their knowledge and/or learn about helping kids with autism communicate better. You can upload videos, exchange information on the Community Forum or share your experience on your personal Blog. Please join us in our ‘grassroots’ movement to help non-verbal and “low-communicating” kids with autism to communicate better and get a better education!

http://strangeson.com/index.php?page=home

As the above excerpt sets out, Strange Son author Portia Iversen has established an online community to help non-verbal & low-communicating children with autism. This is a very welcome addition to the internet autism world which to date has been largely dominated by persons advocating AGAINST autism treatment and cure, even mention of the realities of life faced by lower functioning autistic persons. I encourage parents and caregivers of persons with low functioning, non-communicative autistic children to visit the site and join the community.

Thanks to Lisa Jo Rudy at About Autism.com for bringing this site to my attention.

March 26, 2007 Posted by | About Autism, autism cure, autism disorder, autism education, autism treatment, Lisa Jo Rudy, low functioning autism, Portia Iversen, Strange Son | Leave a comment

Harper Budgets $0 for Autistic Canadians



StatsCanada estimates that Canada’s population will hit 32,950,734 by July 1, 2007. With the CDC figure of 1 in 150 persons having an autistic disorder there are approximately 219,672 autistic Canadians. Many autistic persons require expensive health, education and residential care services. For Autistic Canadians Prime Minister Harper’s government set aside the grand sum of …… $0

Some lesser politicians might have tried to fake it and pretend that they were concerned about Canada’s autistic population. Stephen Harper, to his credit, does not try to pretend. He does not give a damn about your autistic loved one and he does not care who knows it. He does, at least, have the virtue about being honest about his disregard for autistic Canadians.

$O. Thank you so much Mr. Harper.

March 20, 2007 Posted by | autism disorder, autism education, budget 2007, Canada Health Act, residential care, Stephen Harper | Leave a comment