Monday, July 13, 2009

Answer to my letter to Minister of Education

I received today the answer to my letter to Minister of Education. It is long, but I think it could be compressed to one two letter word: "NO".

Dear Ms. Bunda,

Thank you for your e-mail to the Honourable Kathleen Wynne in which you shared concerns about your son, Sebastian who will be transitioning to public school system this year. I am pleased to respond on the Minister’s behalf.

The government is committed to ensuring successful outcomes for all students in the public education system, including students with special education needs. We project that funding for special education will increase by $49 million in 2009-10, to a provincial total of over $2.25 billion. This is an increase of over $627 million since 2002-03, or 39 per cent.

The Ministry of Education works hard to improve the learning environment for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), by building capacity in publicly-funded schools to meet their learning needs. The ministry is implementing a wide range of initiatives to support students with ASD in response to recommendations of the Ministers’ Autism Spectrum Disorders Reference Group.

The ministry has invested $33 million since 2006 through targeted funding to build capacity in school boards and improve the learning environment for students with ASD. Of this $33 million, nearly $20 million has been allocated for training initiatives. To date more than 13,000 educators have received training including principals, teachers, and teachers’ assistants.

School boards have been directed through the Policy and Program Memorandum (PPM) No. 140, Incorporating Methods of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) into Programs for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) to use ABA methods with students withASD, in accordance with students’ individual education plans, where appropriate. The ministry has also established an annual process to monitor school boards’ implementation of PPM 140.

The ministry has developed a resource guide to support educators in elementary and secondary schools in planning and implementing effective educational programs for students with ASD. It contains information, strategies, and practices that can be used in schools and in classrooms and also includes sample materials reflecting current practices as well as lists of references and resources for further reading. Effective Educational Practices for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Resource Guide, 2007 is available on the Ministry’s website: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/elemsec/speced/autismSpecDis.html.

The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) are working collaboratively to provide supportive environments for students with ASD and their families. Sixteen English- and French-language school boards are funded to implement the Connections for Students model in 2008-09. Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board is one of the boards funded to implement this model. The Connections for Students model is a joint strategy to support school-aged children transitioning from intensive behavioural intervention (IBI) therapy services delivered through the Autism Intervention Program (AIP) funded by MCYS to ABAinstructional methods in publicly funded schools. School boards throughout the province are expected to implement the Connections for Students transition teams no later than spring 2010 for all children transitioning from IBI therapy services provided through the MCYS funded AIP to ABA instructional methods in our publicly funded schools in September 2010 and thereafter.

In Ontario, the Education Act places the responsibility on school boards to provide appropriate special education programs and services for exceptional students. In addition, the Education Act requires that the special education funding must be spent on meeting the special education needs of students of the board. Accordingly, there is no authority for school boards or the ministry to re-direct the special education funds to private institutions.

Students with autism have a wide range of educational needs, and school boards are required to offer a range of placements to meet their unique learning needs. School boards also offer a range of special education programs and services, including, where appropriate, strategies based on principles of ABA. I encourage you to work with the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board and its Autism Transition Team to develop a transition plan as well as an Individual Education Plan that will describe Sebastian’s learning strengths, areas of need and the special education program and services that would be provided to him.

Thank you again for writing. Please be assured that I understand the importance of your concerns as we continue to enhance the public education system’s capacity to support students with ASD.

Sincerely,

Teckla Bryson for

Barry Finlay

Director

Special Education Policy and Program Branch

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