I am shocked, surprised and saddened to learn how "Special Needs" children are really dealt with in the New Brunswick school system. I had no idea that the policy on special needs was basically "shove them under the rug but make it look good while we do it". It makes me wonder how many people out there have voiced the same opinion as me, only to be completely ignored with "Well.. its all we have..." or "Its all we can do...".
No, it really isn't all you can do. For instance - why do children on the Special Needs busses arrive at their school so late? Sometimes more than an hour after school actually starts. Using my daughter's class as an example, her teacher specified at the first of the year that the majority of her daily teaching was finished by 9:15am. The rest of the work is group or individual based on the teachings from that first half hour. Winnie's bus did not even get there some days until 9:15. The excuse being apparently is that busses only start at 7:30am and it takes so long to do the special needs runs that they can't possibly get there any earlier. Hmm.. lets see... if I had to be somewhere for the start of soemthing... wouldn't I just leave earlier? If you're a special needs bus driver, aren't you already signing on to a little extra? Wouldn't it be more worth while for the children to actually learn something at school as opposed to simply showing up, and late at that?
Once they get to school, their learning plans are so modified from the average student that they can't possibly be on their own, and are not expected to learn as much as what the other children know. While kudos to the system for putting in place these wonderful plans that accomodate to the student's disabilities, I think "dumbing down" the curriculum instead of ensuring they understand it on a level with everyone else, is a little hard to handle - especially with kids on the autism spectrum. These kids are not dumb, they simply learn differently. To expect them to take an oral test, and then only give them 40% of the requirements of everyone else, is a little excessive. One method or the other would likely do just fine. Using them together is overkill. Don't push them along because you don't have the time and resources to teach them properly.
And that is the icing on the cake - the lack of resources. When Winnie started school this year, it was deemed that she needed one-on-one support - her own Teacher's Aide. THis was approved by the schoolboard and she received this. However, now that we're heading back to school after a 2 week break, her TA is no longer available. She's been pulled and sent to another school. "Not to worry!" they say - they've switched around everyone's schedules so that Winnie now gets 2 hours a day one on one and the rest of the time she shares her TA with another boy. Out of her 5 hours previously, she now gets 2 and the teacher herself expressed concern that Winnie would be falling behind due to lack of support. I'm wondering how I'm supposed to be happy with that downshift, when Winnie needs all the help she can get. When questioned, the school said their hands were tied, and basically told me I should not persue it because the verdict has been handed down from the Head of the District.
To help me try to feel better about this turn of events, the resource teacher decides to tell me that it wasn't just Winnie who had her services cut. There are children who need TAs who don't even have assistance in the classroom. Non-verbal autistic children are integrated into a regular classroom with no one-on-one assistance, or any assistance at all. Why? Apparently simply due to budget cuts.
I'm now wondering what else was cut, and where did the money go? Why is it that the children who need the "extra" the most, are the ones who got cut? Does the province just deem these children a lost cause? If that's the case, they need a wakeup call. These children are not a lost cause, in fact they may become some of the most amazing individuals you have the pleasure of meeting - if we help them through the rough road to get them there.
It is indeed time for your wakeup call New Brunswick education system. *ring ring ring*...