Autism Reality

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

Inclusion Dogma Seductive but Harmful for Some Autistic Students


UK MP Lee Scott has criticized the UK government for placing politically correct inclusion dogma ahead of the needs of autistic school children. While inclusion sounds good it hasn’t always helped some autistic school children or their classmates.

“Autism needs debated at Westminster

By Sam Adams

A REDBRIDGE MP has criticised the Government for putting political correctness’ before the needs of autistic children.

Lee Scott, MP for Ilford North, secured a special parliamentary debate at Westminster last week, calling for the creation of more special schools, three of which currently exist in Redbridge.

The MP believes the Government’s focus on educational inclusiveness’ has left many youngsters with the condition struggling in mainstream schools when they would develop more effectively in special schools.

He said: “The dogmatic approach of placing all pupils with special needs in mainstream schools has frequently benefited neither them or the children whom they are educated alongside.

“Many of us have at some time been seduced by the theory of inclusion which seems so nice and reasonable and politically correct, but there is clear evidence that it does not work for every autistic child.“

The MP criticised the Government for closing down some special schools, and claimed many mainstream schools are unable to provide the learning support needed by autistic youngsters.

He said: “We have seen seven per cent of special schools closed down since 1997 and in a recent report 44 per cent of teachers in local comprehensives admitted they weren’t confident in teaching kids with autism.”

The MP praised the work of the borough’s current special schools, Hatton School in Clayhall, Newbridge School in Ilford and New Rush Hall School, Hainault, but said provision needed to be expanded further.

Replying for the Government, the Minister for Higher Education and Lifelong Learning Bill Rammell said: “I genuinely welcome this debate and the efforts that the hon. Member for Ilford North has made to bring these important issues to the public’s attention.”

http://tinyurl.com/2zpyse

March 16, 2007 Posted by | autism, autism education, autistic, inclusion, learning, Lee Scott, political correctness, schools, special needs | 1 Comment

Full Classroom Inclusion for All is Discriminatory

Yude Henteleff QC is a distinguished lawyer and human rights expert whose detailed resume would represent a life time of accomplishment for several individuals. He is a founding member of a prominent law firm, has been legal counsel for Autism and Learning Disability Associations, been active as a mediator in human rights disputes, served on the Canadian Human Rights Commission and named to the Order of Canada. In November, 2004 he presented a paper at the Canadian Association for Community Living National Summit on Inclusive Education, Ottawa in which he asked “why full inclusion is being advanced in certain areas as the only way to effectively meet the diverse needs of all children with special needs.” Mr. Henteleff provided a number of reasons for the emphasis on full classroom inclusion – including government cost consciousness. Full classroom inclusion is cheaper than providing a continuum of choices to accommodate all the needs of individual students with various disabilities. Mr. Henteleff also reviewed Supreme Court of Canada decisions in Law, Granovsky, Mercier and Eaton and concluded that “Imposing a standard, namely that the inclusive classroom meets all needs, is a perception not based on reality and is stereotypical. In other words, the standard takes the position that one environment meets the needs of all special needs children. By its very nature, such a standard is discriminatory,”

Henteleff, Y. (2004). The fully inclusive classroom is only one of the right ways to meet the best interests of the special needs child. Paper presented at the CACL National Summit on
Inclusive Education, Ottawa, Ontario.

As the parent of a profoundly autistic 11 year old son I concur with Mr. Henteleff’s conclusion. Conor is environmentally sensitive with severe communication deficits. Fortunately for my son when he returned from school with self inflicted bite marks on his wrists and hands the school and district officials were conscientious and cooperative in working out an accommodation to meet his needs. He has been educated in a separate quiet location and brought in to the mainstream classroom for limited periods of defined activity to interact with other students who also visit his area for interactive periods such as “reading buddies”. Some other New Brunswick students with disabilities who might learn better in other or a mixed environment have not always been so fortunate.

As New Brunswick continues its review of inclusive education the advocates of the philosophy of full mainstream classroom inclusion for all continue their very aggressive lobbying to maintain the dominance of their philosophy over an evidence based accommodation of the needs of individual students with disabilities. The New Brunswick Association for Community Living performs many good deeds for persons with disabilities. It is also well financed and well connected in our province and advocates relentlessly for the view that all children benefit from full mainstream classroom inclusion. They have been the “partner and stakeholder of choice” for the Department of Education over recent decades. When the Mackay Inclusion Review development workshop days for teachers were held recently it was conducted as a partnership between the Department and the NBACL. Requests by the Autism Society to participate as an equal partner were ignored. The keynote speaker was Gordon Porter the distinguished Chair of the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission who was himself a driving force behind the adoption in New Brunswick education circles of the philosophy of full mainstream classroom inclusion for all. The NBACL hands out awards to teachers who exemplify “best practices” in inclusive education – meaning practices consistent with the NBACL view of full classroom inclusion. At present, the NBACL is aggressively lobbying politicians to protect the status quo of the full classroom inclusion model.

I know that the NBACL leaders are good people with good intentions. I ask them to consider my son’s experience and those of other profoundly autistic children and the possibility that the aggressive promotion of the mainstream clasroom for all philosophy has created a presumption in favour of the mainstream classroom that is at odds with reality, is discriminatory and in some cases harmful to the child. Parents and educators should have choices available as they work out the best ways to accommodate and educate children with a diverse range of disabilities and needs. They should not be forced into an environment which is unhealthy and counter productive for them.

February 13, 2007 Posted by | autism, autism education, Autism Society New Brunswick, choice, discrimination, Henteleff, Human Rights, inclusion, Mackay, New Brunswick, New Brunswick Association for Community Living | 1 Comment

School for Autistic Children in New York

In New York a school for autistic kids is opening. The school will feature an evidence based, ABA approach, using discrete trial training and also utilizing elements of speech language therapy, occupational and physical therapy, PECS and some elements of TEACCH. The classrooms will be adapted with special computers, monitors and programs. This school appears to be an extension of a successful pre-school program offered by the same HeartShare school. This is an amazing development that is highly unlikely to ever occur in any school district in the Province of New Brunswick.

In New Brunswick over the past 30 years the education of all children has been dominated by a philosophy that dictates mainstream classroom inclusion for all students regardless of their disabilities or abilities. There are exceptions. Some districts and schools have cooperated with parents and allowed autistic children,particularly severely autistic children such as my son, to receive the greatest part of his learning in a separate area with visits from classmates for activities such as reading buddies and with Conor visiting the mainstream classroom for specific defined activities for limited periods of time. By and large though in New Brunswick’s education system educators and parents are pressured to place all children in a mainstream classroom whether it is suitable for them or not.

At major events such as the teachers development workshop which was held to review the MacKay Inclusion review process the Department of Education partnered with the New Brunswick Association for Community Living which aggressively promotes the philosophy of mainstream classroom inclusion for all students. Requests by the Autism Society New Brunswick to participate as a partner in the workshop were rejected by the Department of Education notwithstanding the number of autistic children in New Brunswick schools and the severity of the challenges posed in educating them. The NBACL philosophy of total mainstream inclusion is also promoted by the presentation by that organization of awards to teachers who exemplify what the NBACL considers to be best inclusion practices. The mainstream classroom philosophy for all is also well represented by NBACL participation on the Premier’s Council on the Status of Disabled Persons and in the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission whose current chair, Dr. Gordon Porter, was instrumental in the implementation of the mainstream classroom for all philosophy in New Brunswick schools and is touted as an expert on the inclusion of students with a disability into regular classes on the commission web site.

With such an entrenched mindset in favor of the mainstream classroom inclusion philosophy I am thankful that school and district educators have, at least to date, cooperated with us in creating an alternative learning arrangement for my son. In the big picture though the emphasis on classroom inclusion has kept many children in the mainstream classroom even when it is not suitable for them. It also makes it extremely unlikely that an option such as a school for autistic school children will ever see the light of day in the Province of New Brunswick.

http://tinyurl.com/27g8xf

New school for autistic kids

02/01/2007

You hear it again and again—the incidence of autism is on the rise. In fact, according to the latest statistics, 1 in 166 children are diagnosed with autism and reported cases are growing at a rate of 10-17 percent each year.

With all these children needing services, HeartShare Human Services of New York is proud to be responding to the needs of the community by opening its new HeartShare School. This program is for school-age children with autism and mental retardation from all five boroughs.

Located at St. Finbar’s School, 138 Bay 20th Street in Bensonhurst, children ages 5 through 14 are eligible for services.

Scheduled to open in February, this program is unique to Brooklyn in that it will primarily follow the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) approach with the emphasis on discreet trial learning. Some components of the TEACCH methodology and Picture Exchange Communication System will also be used.

Started at the urging of parents who had gone to NY State Senator Martin Golden to seek ABA-based educational services for their children, the program will have five classrooms, each structured with class-room style learning and speech, occupational and physical therapies.

Additionally, each classroom will have adapted computers, touch screen monitors and specialized program software that addresses the learning needs of children with disabilities.

“HeartShare has had a great deal of success teaching children with autism in our four pre-school programs,” noted President and CEO William R. Guarinello. “That is why parents turned to us to start a program for older children. There were no appropriate educational services in Brooklyn for many of these families.”

Golden stated, “I am excited that as a partner with HeartShare Human Services, the dreams of the parents who have approached me seeking the best educational opportunities for their autistic children right here in our community will come true. For too long, Brooklyn’s autistic community has been underserved despite the rising numbers of those diagnosed. In that notion, we are going to provide at St. Finbar’s School a state of the art school that is ready to teach the autistic children of our community. We have done a unique and important thing in the planning and establishment of this school. In doing so, we will make better the lives of many now and in the future, for through HeartShare, they will receive an excellent and solid education.”

When at full capacity, The HeartShare School will provide full-day educational services to 48 children. “We still have open placements,” said Carol Verdi, vice president of Educational Services at HeartShare.

“Children from all five boroughs are eligible, but must be on the Pending Needs list through the Central Base Support Team within the New York City Department of Education. HeartShare is excited about the opening of this new program to meet the needs of students in the community.

“Families have been an integral part of the planning process,” said Verdi, “and we will ensure that they remain involved as we move forward.”

For more information about The HeartShare School, contact HeartShare Human Services at 718-323-2877 or visit http://www.heartshare.org.

February 2, 2007 Posted by | aba, ASNB, autism disorder, autism education, inclusion, mainstreaming, NBACL, New Brunswick, New York, schools | 1 Comment

School Inclusion Can Be Abuse

School inclusion ‘can be abuse’. That is the title of a BBC on line story which includes a report on a recent study of the British inclusive education system prepared for that country’s National Union of Teachers “The Costs of Inclusion” by John MacBeath, Maurice Galton, Susan Steward, Andrea MacBeath and Charlotte Page, published by University of Cambridge Faculty of Education. Professor John MacBeath of Cambridge was interviewed and stated that placing some students in a mainstream classroom could be seen as a form of abuse:

Physically sitting in a classroom is not inclusion. Children can be excluded by sitting in a classroom that’s not meeting their needs.” The typical secondary school timetable – rushing from physics, to history then French, say – was for some children as bewildering as being “on another planet”. “You might call it a form of abuse, in a sense, that those children are in a situation that’s totally inappropriate for them.” Professor MacBeath also indicated that the report is not “anti-inclusion” , just that mainstream classroom inclusion is not appropriate for all students, particularly those with complex needs.

The BBC story and the “Costs of Inclusion” report can be found at:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/4774407.stm

http://www.teachers.org.uk/resources/pdf/CostsofInclusion.pdf

I have personally argued against placement of all autistic children in mainstream classrooms as has the Autism Society New Brunswick which asks that the school system look at what works for each individual child. If a child does not learn in, and is overwhelmed by, a mainstream classroom then he or she should not be placed in that environment. A quieter environment is necessary for some autistic children who also require more individualized instruction. Flexibility in choice of learning environment is needed. Some autistic children are capable of learning in a mainstream classroom. Some are not. It is critically necessary to examine the evidence and see what works for the individual child. Failure to place an autistic child in the right learning environment because of a rigid adherence to the philosophy of mainstream classroom inclusion for all may constitute abuse.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/4774407.stm

January 16, 2007 Posted by | autism, autism education, education, evidence based, inclusion, philosophy | 3 Comments