Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Smiles Gang: Conor and LHHS Friends Had a Blast Last Night Going to See Rio 2 in 3D

L to R: Jesse, Christian, Kristen, Conor
Photo by Phyllis Van Dine-Humble 

This is one of my new favorite pictures of Conor, far right in the picture, taken last evening as Conor and some of his Leo Hayes High School friends went to see Rio 2 in 3D. Phyllis Van Dine-Humble took this awesome shot of the gang sharing tremendous smiles and having fun before the movie.  In attendance with Conor was excellent Education Aide, Lori Fitzgerald, who helps make every experience great for Conor. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Joel Rubinoff's Angry, Ill Informed, Misleading Autism Rhetoric

Conor Doherty on World Autism Awareness Day 2014,  as I tried to take a "selfie" of the two of us wearing blue, gave his old Dad an unexpected hug. 
which restricts his life and causes him harm. 

Joel Rubinoff father of a high functioning, smart autistic son is angry  and he is using his position as an arts and entertainment columnist to tell Canadians that parents and organizations who disagree with his feel good views of autism need "attitude adjustments".  In Joel Rubinoff's ill informed view of autism  people should not discuss autism like it is a ... disorder.  They should not talk about any of the serious, sometimes harmful, sometimes deadly deficits that actually restrict the lives of many with autism disorders, a group of neurological disorders marked by heterogeneity, complexity and variation. (See for example, Lynn Waterhouse, Rethinking Autism: Variation and Complexity)

Autism for Joel Rubinoff is Temple Grandin, Darryl Hannah, Einstein, Mozart, Bill Gates and Susan Boyle.  Forget for the moment that Einstein and Mozart lived and died before autism was a recognized disorder and that any speculation that they were autistic is exactly that ... speculation.  Rubinoff, like any of the autism is beautiful crowd that have fought against recognizing the harsher realities faced by many on the autism spectrum of disorders, likes to equate his son's autism with very smart, talented people.  Rubinoff's son is, by Rubinoff's evidence, very intelligent and  high functioning with good communication skills:

"But did you know that half way through senior kindergarten, he's already learning to read. That he can do puzzles with almost 100 pieces. That he's fascinated with space and science, and can name all the planets. That if you tell him it's Hot Dog Day at school he'll squeal with delight. "I'm so excited, Dad — I can't wait!"

Joel Rubinoff's son, like some on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum of disorders is very intelligent.  I am happy for him and his son.  My son, now 18 lives on the severe end of the autism spectrum of disorders.  He has an intellectual disability and suffers from seizures, like many on that severe end of the autism spectrum.  My son brings us, and everyone who has worked with him, great joy but his disorder limits his life severely in the ways described by the autism advocates that Rubinoff despises. 

Mr. Rubinoff appears to be unaware of sources like the World Health Organization which, in September 2013,  stated that approximately 50% of persons with an autism disorder also have an intellectual disability. Joel Rubinoff may not realize that many autistic children are prone to wandering and some lose their lives as a result. Some engage in very serious self injurious behavior as my son has done at times. 

If Mr. Rubinoff doubts what I am saying I would be happy to take the time to provide him with sources pointing to the very harsh realities facing many on the autism spectrum of disorders ... if he would start acting like a reporter/journalist and read and report to Canadians that autism is far from being about undiagnosed historical geniuses.  Nor is it only about actually diagnosed, highly intelligent children like his son.  For many including my son Conor Doherty, autism is a complex, serious disorder.  I love my son dearly and I know, contrary to Mr Rubinoff's "reporting" that my son's life is very restricted  and his future as an adult whose parents will not always be with him is very bleak. 

(For Mr. Rubinoff's benefit I am the father of a severely autistic son and I have been involved in autism advocacy for 15 years in New Brunswick where, together with fellow parent advocates, we were able to establish a model early intervention for autism program, obtain some autism educated Education Aides and Resource Teachers, and successfully fight the closure of the Stan Cassidy Centre Autism Team which treats and helps many children and young people with serious autism disorder issues, the kind of issues Mr Rubinoff appears to be unaware of.)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Gordon Porter's Vanity And Bill 61, An Act To Amend The Education Act, Will Result in MORE EXCLUSIONARY Education Practices in New Brunswick Schools

Gordon Porter believes that inclusive education is simple. Unfortunately most teachers, the NBTA organisation itself, aides and education administrators have been bullied and intimidated into following his simple philosophy unquestioningly even though they know it flies in the face of the truth. They know that many children are present in NB schools with complex learning, behavior, cognitive and sensory challenges which render education under any label anything but simple but they dare not speak out.  More and more children are, and with the current Bill 61, An Act to Amend the Education Act, more and more in future will be, excluded from NB schools as placement and learning options are reduced in favor of Mr Porter's regular classes and mindlessly simple philosophy.

The picture by Diane Crocker above and accompanying quotes are from the Newfoundland paper the Western Star article, "Inclusion in the classroom ‘simple,’ says educator", with highlighting added by me for emphasis:

"CORNER BROOK — Gordon Porter believes inclusion is the most natural thing in the world. The educator and director of Inclusive Education Initiatives presented a session on inclusive education at the Greenwood Inn and Suites on Thursday. Porter, who is also the editor of the Inclusive Education Canada website inclusive, spoke to parents, educators and agency professionals who deal with children with special needs at the pre-conference for the Newfoundland and Labrador Association for Community Living Conference taking place in the city today and Saturday. The session was sponsored by the Community Inclusion Initiative. 

 Porter’s session revolved around the theme of parents and teachers working together to make inclusion work.“It means kids go to their neighbourhood schools with kids their own age in regular classes,” said Porter.“If you’re seven years, old you go to the school just down the street. You go in a class with other seven-year-olds, and you’re supported if you have extra needs. “It’s so simple, it’s that simple,” said Porter."

Gordon Porter's vanity has led to exclusive education practices in New Brunswick schools.  I know this to be true, teachers, aides and administrators in NB schools and retired teachers know this to be true. The only ones who do not know this to be true are Gordon Porter who has aggressively pushed  his own simplistic, non evidence based,  non inclusive education on NB students and schools over the past 30+ years and his NBACL followers. Mr Porter's simple (his own words) philosophy has resulted, and continues to result, in more restricted range of options for placement of children with severe learning, behavior and cognitive challenges within New Brunswick schools. By restricting the range of placement options for NB students Mr Porter has forced numbers of students including students with severe autism, cognitive and behavior challenges out of their local schools to home based learning.  

In some cases students have been locked in rooms by themselves with no supervision, some have been charged with assault, some have banned from school premises.  When the Porter, everybody in the mainstream classroom, false inclusion philosophy fails the child is blamed and he or she is banned from the so called inclusive schools of NB.  

Mr Porter can receive dozens of ribbons to pin on his chest from countries with struggling education systems but the reality in NB is that education is rapidly becoming more exclusive, less inclusive, as options that might accommodate persons with severe autistic, cognitive, sensory and obsessive behaviors are simply eliminated from schools.

My interest in the false inclusion in NB schools arises from my son's severe challenges.  He has in fact been accommodated ... by individualized instruction outside the regular classroom with ample socialization at the local swimming pool and gym and daily connection with other children in the Leo Hayes High School Resource Centre, an excellent, practical, evidence based and truly inclusive resource for children with extra needs.  The LHHS Resource Centre though is at serious risk as Gordon Porter continues to push entrenchment and expansion of his exclusionary policies in NB schools. 

My son's alternative arrangements came about in part because of our advocacy on his behalf.  I happen to be a lawyer and have some professional skills that are of assistance in communicating with education officials and advocating for our son. Some other parents are not as fortunate and some have more than one child with extra needs. 

With respect to autism spectrum disorders the University of North Carolina TEACCH program which has substantial influence in academic and professional autism circles has articulated the following position statement (underling added by me for emphasis) on inclusion of children with autism one which calls for a range of placement options.  It is an evidence based position which recognizes the heterogeneity of autism disorders and the range of accommodations required:

  1. The TEACCH program recognizes the important value of preparing all persons with autism for successful functioning within society. Each person with autism should be taught with the goal of successful functioning with as few restrictions as is possible.                                                            
  2. Decisions about including children with autism into fully integrated settings must be made consistent with the principle of the "least restrictive environment" as a guiding principle. No person with autism should be unnecessarily or inappropriately denied access to meaningful educational activities. However, it should be noted that the concept of least restrictive environment requires that appropriate learning take place. Placement decisions also require that students be capable of meaningful learning and functioning within the setting selected
  3. Activities which are inclusive for children with autism should be offered based on an individual assessment of the child's skills and abilities to function and participate in the setting. Inclusion activities are appropriate only when preceded by adequate assessment and pre-placement preparations including appropriate training. Inclusion activities typically need to be supported by professionals trained in autism who can provide assistance and objective evaluation of the appropriateness of the activity.
  4. Inclusion should never replace a full continuum of service delivery, with different students with autism falling across the full spectrum. Full inclusion should be offered to all persons with autism who are capable of success in fully integrated settings. Partial inclusion is expected to be appropriate for other clients with autism. And special classes and schools should be retained as an option for those students with autism for whom these settings are the most meaningful and appropriate.
Mr Porter's obsession with everybody in the classroom philosophy will hurt many more children as it becomes even more entrenched by the current Bill 61, An Act to Amend the Education Act, which will, once passed into law, give greater legal status to Mr Porter's false notion of inclusion. The principle that the evidence based best interests of the child should be a dominant consideration in setting school policy will now be challenged by Mr Porter's inclusion illusion.  More and more NB students will be forced from NB schools into home based learning.  

Monday, April 07, 2014

Once Canada's Autism Wasteland Has Saskatchewan Made Any Meaningful Progress?

Apparently Saskatchewan is still having difficulty providing necessary levels of early autism intervention.  I once described it in a September 2, 2007 commentary as Canada's Autism Wasteland:  Canada's Autism Wasteland To Take First Step Forward.   At the time of my commentary Saskatchewan was one of the few provinces with no intervention program for autistic children.  

A recent Global News article by Amber Rockliffe, Saskatchewan Families Moving Due to Lack of Autism Funding indicates that not enough hours of intervention are being delivered to Saskatchewan's autistic children and some families are moving out of province to find the help their children need:

"Sheri Radoux, has moved south of the U.S. border to Minnesota. “I think the services in Saskatchewan are probably the worst in Canada or one of the worst in Canada,” said Radoux. “We moved down to Minnesota and we got full-time therapy for all of our children, paid and funded by the state.” Saskatchewan spends about $7.5 million annually on autism treatment and services. ...   ..... When we were looking, you could get one hour a week of therapy. And that’s like saving a sinking boat with a thimble,” explained Radoux."

With respect to the number of intervention hours received by Saskatchewan's autistic children The Global News article references Shannon Hill, mother of an autistic child:

Hill, who now works with autistic children herself, says many of them receive only several hours of behavioural therapy a week. It’s basically a waste of money on the government’s part because it doesn’t produce any outcomes.”

Article author Rockliffe obtained information that the province's Ministery of Health had increased autism funding 1400 per cent.  The funding has apparently not resulted in delivery of autism intervention to autistic children at anywhere near required levels.