Autism Reality

"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 Connections Fredericton Grand Opening Photos





Yesterday was the grand opening of the Connexions Autisme/Autism Connections Fredericton resource center. Premier Shawn Graham and Fredericton MP Andy Scott, along with some young helpers, did the official ribbon cutting as shown in these photos. Also shown is Lana Thomson of Autism Connections Fredericton. The place was packed and the opening lasted for two hours with opportunity to talk with a wide range of people in the Fredericton area interested in autism issues and helping autistic children. The resource centre, as the pictures show, is in the same location, side by side with Service d’Intervention Autisme/Autism Intervention Services the agency run by SLP Danielle Pelletier. Fredericton’s pre-school autistic children will be well served by Autism Intervention Services and Autism Connections efforts. Yours truly is also shown talking with Danielle.

May 1, 2007 Posted by | Andy Scott, autism awareness, autism disorder, autism interventions, autism resource center, Fredericton, Premier Shawn Graham | Leave a comment

Autism Therapy Must Be Funded

Fredericton’s Daily Gleaner has long been supportive of the cause of autism in New Brunswick and once again it has stepped up to the plate with an editorial calling on the Liberal government of Shawn Graham to fund autism therapy past the current 5 year age cut off and into the school years. Not just because Premier Shawn Graham promised to train 100 TA’s and Resource teachers a year at the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training program but also because it is a good investment which will defray the costs to society of additional care for autistic children as they age and costs incurred by the stresses leading to marital breakdown. The Gleaner has offered sound advice. Hopefully, Premier Shawn Graham will heed such advice and honor the commitment he made as part of his campaign to become Premier.

Autism therapy must be funded

Published Wednesday April 25th, 2007
Appeared on page B7

Parents of autistic children are in a race against time. It’s a race in which they are heavily handicapped with too many burdens to carry, too much worry on their shoulders and far too many roles to fulfill.

They must be not just mother, father and all the chauffeuring, chefing, cleaning, dressing and boo boo-kissing that entails but also teacher, social co-ordinator, mentor and the many other functions needed to help their autistic child cope.

And as the province has failed to fulfill its promise of funding training for support workers for autistic children, parents must also play the part of fundraiser to pay for the special treatment that can literally change an autistic child’s life.

The Liberal government promised to pay for autism intervention training for 100 teacher’s assistants and resource teachers a year for four years. That would help autistic children have a chance at working with a specially trained teacher’s assistant.

Currently, applied behavioural analysis intervention therapy is the most popular and successful therapy for autistic children. It’s a program of intense therapy which, when started early on, can help autistic children reach their full potential.

The government funds the therapy for pre-school age children, but once the child enters kindergarten, the funding stops.

And then there is nothing.

So desperate parents struggle to pay for the therapy which can cost more than $50,000 a year. And that means holding benefit dances and any other fund-raising event they can think of on top of all their other tasks.

Election promises aside, funding this therapy is a good investment. Autistic children who grows up to be severely autistic adults not only have a low quality of life, they cost the system more money. Helping autistic children reach their full potential, translates to autistic adults who will be better able to care for themselves.

Doing whatever is necessary to support parents of autistic children is also a good investment. When parents are exhausted and stretched to their limit, the whole family suffers. Marriages break down, other children come off the rails, some drop out of school. There’s a whole slew of expensive problems that go with family breakdown.

Among the Liberal government’s election promises was a little one about self-sufficiency, one that’s getting all the attention. But if we are not all on the road to self-sufficiency — and that includes autistic children — none of us will get there.

April 25, 2007 Posted by | Applied Behavioural Analysis, autism awareness, autism disorder, Daily Gleaner, election promise, Premier Shawn Graham, UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training Program | 2 Comments

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

What Does Throne Speech Autism Commitment Mean?

Yesterday I commented that the Graham government’s throne speech contained good news for students with autism because the speech contained a commitment to autism specific training for TA’s. Opposition leader Shawn Graham had committed during the campaign to training 100 TA’s and Resource teachers per year for the next 4 years via the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training program. This morning’s Telegraph Journal APPEARED to indicate a major watering down of that commitment though indicating in a story carried on page A3 , that Education Minister Lamrock was committing to 100 TA’s over the course of his government’s mandate. The Minister also appeared to be wavering over whether the training would be done by the UNB-CEL folks, widely respected by the NB Autism Community and across Canada or on the cheap by Department of Education civil servants. The difference is substantial.


– Telegraph Journal, February 7, 2007, Joshua Errett Minister promises 100 autism support workers in schools

There are literally hundreds of students with autism in New Brunswick schools. Many are effectively excluded from receiving a real education because they do not have the autism trained personnel working with them to assist their learning by specialized methodologies such as Applied Behavior Analysis. They have been betrayed by New Brunswick politicians before. In the past an interdepartmental (Education, Family Services, Health) committee (the IDC) was established to examine autism services in New Brunswick. The IDC took almost two years to conclude that autism specific services were virtually non-existent. It issued a report and recommendations which sat unread by the lead Minister on the IDC, for almost a full year and most of its recommendations were never fulfilled and are now seriously outdated. Autistic children do not need any more political betrayals. Hopefully, the new Liberal government is not about to water down its commitment to a fraction of what Mr. Graham promised.

On May 4, 2004 a Fredericton Liberal MLA stood in front of the Centennial Building with protesting parents of autistic school children and said “”We can do better. We know the options,… “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.

Daily Gleaner, May 4, 2004, Joel Kane, Parents march to protest tight funding for autism

I hope that Education Minister Lamrock remembers his words from May 4, 2004, remembers Mr. Grahams campaign commitment and honors that commitment fully.

February 7, 2007 Posted by | ABAA, autism, autism education, autism support workers, campaign promises, Daily Gleaner, Education Minister Kelly Lamrock, Premier Shawn Graham, TA's, Telegraph Journal, UNB-CEL | Leave a comment

Good Autism News in New Brunswick Throne Speech



Premier Graham’s first throne speech today contained good news for students with autism in New Brunswick schools. During the election campaign Mr. Graham made a very specific promise to provide autism training at UNB-CEL autism intervention program to 100 TA’s and Resource teachers. The wait for confirmation of that commitment has been nerve racking but the Throne Speech contains good news in the form of a plan which will be announced this session to increase the number of trained autism support workers in the system. This is of course a very general statement but it means a lot to have such a commitment made in the throne speech. Parents will remain vigilant. We have no choice, we have been let down before and our children can not afford more setbacks on their learning journeys. But today is a good day for New Brunswick school students with autism – a very good day.

http://www.gnb.ca/cnb/Promos/Throne-2007/speech-e.asp

“Your government earned the trust of New Brunswickers by outlining the Charter for Change which will form the basis for many of the initiatives that will be introduced in the coming months. The cornerstones of the Charter for Change are the Three Es – education, energy and economic development.

Your government will work with New Brunswick’s teachers, District Education Councils and academic institutions to build the best education system in Canada. This year, your government will release a new Plan for Education. The Minister of Education has been consulting with teachers, District Education Councils, parents and students on this action plan of new ideas and programs to begin transforming our schools.

This year, your government will begin its commitment to implement the MacKay Report recommendations for improving our inclusive education system and meeting the diverse needs of all our students . The Minister of Education will appear before the Standing Committee on Education in order to initiate the discussion on how to ensure that each child in New Brunswick has the chance to reach his or her full potential.

Your government will further demonstrate its commitment to inclusive education by ensuring that new hope is given to children with autism. A plan will be announced this session to increase the number of trained autism support workers in the system.

Your government understands the importance of a school to the community around it. Your government will move forward on a new community schools policy that will enhance the quality of education in rural and urban communities alike by transforming schools into true centres of learning for the whole community.

Truly innovative change will be driven by teachers and your government will announce new measures to support our best teachers and principals in being leaders in innovative education.

During the upcoming session, your government will unveil a new accountability agenda for improving results for early literacy and exceptional learners.

The Departments of Education and Family and Community Services will work jointly and in partnership with stakeholders to develop a long-term plan for child care and early learning.”

February 6, 2007 Posted by | autism, autism support workers, eduction, New Brunswick, Premier Shawn Graham, Throne Speech | Leave a comment