Saturday, September 12, 2009

Friday school meeting.

On Friday I did not protest because I had a school meeting at the school Sebastian is going to attend when discharged from therapy.

If you have ever read Jaroslav Hašek's book "The Good Soldier Švejk " maybe you would have a vague idea how I felt. The entire experience is so strange that it starts to feel absurd and surreal . It is hard to stay calm, but going crazy and flipping over the furniture would not help improve the situation. But sometimes my emotions are taking the best of me and I burst in to tears.

The meeting was with the principle of Sebastian's future school, and three more ladies who are supervising Sebastian's placement in the school.

In short, the situation is such: Sebastian suffers from a disorder that grossly impairs his ability to learn the way children with normally developing brains do; that is, by imitating. He can learn though through the special method or intense repetition and reinforcement called ABA therapy. Because of the severity of his condition and nature of this method of learning, it works only if it is intensively applied for about forty hours a week.

School is an institution when children learn. It is set up to accommodate the learning of normally developing kids who can learn by imitating an following example, and who at a certain age achieve certain skill levels that allow them learn more independently. Sebastian does not have these skills. He cannot learn by sitting in the classroom and learning with other kids. He cannot sit still in a chair for very long without having tantrums, and being disruptive to other students' learning. In Sebastian's current condition, nobody will benefit from Sebastian being in the classroom, not the teacher, the children nor Sebastian. Even if he was able to sit quietly in the corner, he would not learn anything this way. So he will be kept in the "quiet room" where his behaviour will not disrupt other children's learning process. Half of the problem is solved this way: healthy kids will learn. The other half remains: Sebastian will not learn.

Sebastian needs therapy to learn. School is not there to provide therapy, because they are an educational institution, and not a health facility. In School, therapy is a dirty word due to political reasons. School is not there to provide therapy. School is there to provide education. Educational assistants can not go to Children's College where Sebastian currently recieves therapy, and learn how to do it. They only can go there to "observe" him in the environment he is used to up to this time. For an hour. And they they are left to their own devices. No support is offered from other experienced therapists, nor will they have access to clinical psychologists on site like the therapists in the Children's College have. There will be no supervision or access to Clinical psychologist at all, once Sebastian is in the regular school system.

Children like Sebastian cannot learn without therapy. This is not the school system's concern. The SYSTEM run by governmentaly hired officials definitely has some intellectual disabilities and is not able to solve that conundrum. Therapists are not allowed on the school grounds, even if parents have the money to pay for the therapists themselves. The school will not pay for therapists to help autistic children in their education, though they are happy to receive money from the government to cover the cost of a "personal attendant" and other means of keeping him out of trouble. By denying autistic kid's access to therapy, either in a special, private facility like the Children's College or by properly trained staff in the regular school system, autistic kids are denied their basic human rights to education and self-development.

Why is that happening?
If Sebastian, after years of babysitting in the quiet room, will to regress and never achieve his full potential here is a list of who will NOT feel responsible or in any way accountable for their current policies and actions:

NOT his teaching assistants,
NOT his teachers,
NOT his school principle,
NOT anybody from School Board,
NOR anybody from Ministry of Education,
NOT the lady psychologist who signed his discharge papers,
NOT the mysterious "independent reviewer" who confirmed her decision. By the way, can the impartiality of the person be confirmed if their identity is kept secret?
NOR anybody from Ministry of Children and Social Services together with the honourable Deb Mathews,
NOT the Premier of Ontario,

Well, NOBODY will suffer from the consequences of their actions, or inactions. Everybody will be rewarded for working so agreeably within the system where they receive a nice salary and eventual pension. The only people who WILL suffer will be autistic kids and their families.

It is clear to me now that Sebastian' education will end as soon as he will enter the school system.

This is the main message I have heard in my meeting, from undoubtedly well-meaning ladies:
"We understand your frustration, but out hands are tied!"
"You have the power."

Really? We will see.


  1. wow, this has not at all been my experience. The people at my children's school (all severely affected by autism) are very understanding and have gone overboard to make the most comfortable, best learning environment possible....We are also in Ontario and I am EXTREMELY grateful for the services my family has. I am in no way rich...I can't even work and can barely make ends meet...most of the time I can't even afford to send my children on school trips that cost less than ten dollars, but the school usually finds a way to take my kids anyway to give them the same experiences as the others....I know so many people in the United States who have NOTHING compared to what Ontario offers so I am thankful.

  2. I have no doubt that people working in school have the best intentions to provide the best help they can within the system and without overstepping the boundaries they have to work within. Sebastian is low functioning nonverbal child who needs and is benefiting now from intense and highly structured, and professional environment in Children's College. His progress i s documented and data is gathered and analyzed, his program is adjusted to his individual needs. He is progressing and now working on his communication with pictures. It will all end when he enters school.