Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Will Bureaucrats Convince Liberals to Break Autism Pledge?

The Liberal party pledged during the recent election to provide UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training to 100 Teacher Assistants and Resource teachers a year for the next 4 years. Now though it appears that Department of Education bureaucrats are trying to push the Minister of Education to break that very specific pledge by promoting a variety of alternatives to the Minister. These alternatives essentially include options such as requiring persons applying to work as TA's with autistic children to have obtained the training on their own or having the training provided by the Department itself even though the Department lacks the expertise to provide proper training. This is the same department which has resisted for several years efforts by the ASNB to have the Department provide effective education interventions for autistic children by trained personnel for several years. The bureaucrats' strategy also includes by passing the provincial Autism Society New Brunswick in setting up education workshops for autistic children even though the Department regularly consults disability organizations when those organizations are in agreement with the Department. If past experience is a guide the Department will also adopt a divide and conquer strategy and try to sow dissension within the autism community. Their strategy is already under way. In a meeting this week with ASNB representatives Minister Lamrock preferred to characterize the Liberal pledge as a "raising of expectations in the autism community" as opposed to having made a commitment.

The express pledge made by then Opposition Leader Shawn Graham during the election campaign was set out in an email to Autism Society New Brunswick President Lila Barry:

From: Graham, Shawn (LEG)
Sent: Wednesday, September 06, 2006 2:37 PM
To: lila barry
Subject: Liberal Platform

Dear Ms. Barry:

Thank you for your letter and for sharing your concerns with me. In our Liberal election platform that will be released this week, we are committing to the implementation of the recommendations of the Interdepartmental Committee on Autism released in November 2001. Although we realize this document is now nearly five years old, it does provide a basis on which to develop, in partnership with the stakeholders, a strategy that will assist children with autism from early childhood and into adulthood.

As well, we will take two concrete steps to address the immediate needs of children with autism in two areas: a case management process and UNB-CEL autism training.

A new Liberal government will:

1. Integrate services for young children and their families by enhancing and expanding the Early Childhood Initiatives Program to ensure a smooth transition into public school for children identified as at risk or those with special needs, such as autism.

2. Provide UNB-CEL autism training for 100 additional teaching assistants and Methods and Resource teachers each year for four years.

I commend you and the members of the Autism Society of New Brunswick on your tireless advocacy on behalf of children with autism. You are truly making a difference in many lives. Please feel free to contact me at any time.

Yours truly,

Shawn Graham

Leader of the Official Opposition

The Autism Society New Brunswick recommended that its members, friends and family members of autistic persons vote Liberal during the recent very close election. It did so because of this very specific commitment from then Opposition Leader Shawn Graham. Now that Mr. Graham is Premier it is expected that he will keep his word and honour the pledge that he made to the ASNB and to autistic children. Education Minister Lamrock is under intense pressure by department bureaucrats to dishonour that commitment.

We shall see what happens.

1 comment:

mcewen said...

I find it curious to be living in the richest country in the world, where good intentions [and primary steps] are derailed with such ease. Cheers