May 18, 2009
The Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Minister of Education,
900 Bay Street,
Toronto, Ontario, M7A 1L2
Dear Minister Kathleen Wynne
My name is Maria Bunda. My son Sebastian is six years old and about to enter the school system this year.
Sebastian was was diagnosed with autism a month before his second birthday. During the waiting period for therapy funding, I spent all resources I had, as well as private sponsors' aid, to provide IBI (Intensive Behavioural Intervention) therapy for my son. Funding for his IBI started in February 2007, and the decision to terminate his funding was made in November 2008. Sebastian has been attending the Behavioral Institute Children's College, a private institution with an outstanding reputation, where he receives excellent, highly structured, intensive therapy that is the only scientifically proven method of helping autistic kids. In spite of his severe autism he has made significant progress during the time he attended. His self-injourous and aggressive behaviours have decreased. He is now toilet trained and has gained some essential self-help skills. He is now in the process of developing communication using signs and pictures.
My concern is that if Sebastian will be removed from this highly structured environment he will stop learning new skills, or what is worse, will loose skills already gained. After meeting with school officials at Saint Lawrence Catholic School in Hamilton, it has become clear to me that in spite of their best efforts, at the present time the school system is not able to provide an environment that my son will be able to learn in, since low functioning autistic children do not learn from their environment by observing and mimicking.
The Behavioral Institute Children's College employs a team of professionals consisting of therapists, senior therapists, clinicians, and psychologists, all experienced in the specialized, scientifically proven method based on Applied Behavioral Analysis used in the treatment and education of autistic individuals. Thanks to their experience and efficiency, the Behavioral Institute Children's College is able to provide this service for twelve months of the year with one two-week brake in the summer and one two-week brake in the winter for about $70 000 dollars a year. The cost of this treatment is thus comparable to the $62 000 that the Ministry of Education will supply the Catholic School Board for the enrolment of my son in the standard school system. This latter circumstance will ensure that my son will be kept safe from injuring himself and others, but will not provide for him any real opportunity to learn for 10 months of the year. My son will have acess to an individual care provider during the hours he is at school, but, because this person will not be fully trained in the IBI therapy and techniques, this will amount to little more than paying out $62 000 a year for a specialized babysitter.
I understand that Ministry of Education is making an efforts to accommodate the growing numbers of autistic children entering the school system. I know that teaching assistants are receving IBI and ABA instruction. But these are mostly part-time courses and seminars, and are able to introduce the treatment principals, but do not provide a sufficient amount of practical, hands-on experience. ABA technique is often counterintuitive and requires a great deal of practice and skill to be implemented effectively. Also, ABA therapists need the support of highly trained professionals that can adapt strategies and curriculum to the highly specfic, individual needs of the students. Unfortunately, at the present time the Ontario School system cannot provide the level of support my son needs to learn, grow and thrive.
Removing Sebastian from the care he currently recieves at the Children's College will deprive him the chance to achieve his full potential. It is, in essence, denying him his right to a proper education.
My request to you is this:
Because it will take some time for the school system to develop the ability to provide a sufficient learning environment for kids withe severe autism like my son (and my son does not have time - he needs his education now, in his crucial, formative years) and since he is already comfortable and well established at the Behavioral Institute Children's College, could you order the transfer of funds that normally would be given to the School Board to the Behavioral Institute Children's College? This would be the most efficient way to use hard-earned tax payers' money, the best chance for my son to achieve his full potential, and the most efficient way to help my son avoid costly life-long institutionalization.
I Appreciate your attention in this urgent matter.
More information about my son, documents, videos of his therapy, and our struggle to help him to achieve his full potential as well as this letter can be found at www.tooautistic.com
Sincerely, very concerned mother