New Brunswick's Telegraph-Journal has written an excellent editorial in which it commends the confirmation by Education Minister Lamrock that the Graham government will be training 100 TA's and teachers per year for the next four years. The article reflects a good understanding by the Telegraph-Journal editorial writers of why this commitment is necessary. The training commitment is critically important to ensure a real education for New Brunswick students with autism. That is more than enough reason for me to feel thankful this morning. Minister Lamrock's communication with the Autism Society New Brunswick under difficult circumstances is also a big plus.
But the Telegraph-Journal editorial is itself a reason for celebration. Over the past 7-8 years many in New Brunswick's autism community have struggled, to provide for their children's special needs and to obtain decent services for autistic persons of all ages. We have also sought to raise public awareness about the realities of autism. Without true public understanding and awareness of autism the specific steps taken will be undermined. The T-J article is strong evidence that the struggle to raise autism awareness in New Brunswick is succeeding.
Common sense prevails on autism
Published Monday February 12th, 2007
Appeared on page A4
The plight of New Brunswickers with autism and the difficulties encountered by their families have received a lot of ink in the Telegraph-Journal over the past decade. What was once considered an irremediable condition, which might result in institutionalization, is now known to include a broad range of symptoms; and educational techniques for reaching and teaching autistic children have become more common and more refined.
Education Minister Kelly Lamrock's announcement that the province will train and hire 400 new resource and methods teachers to work with autistic students represents the greatest political commitment yet to dealing with the issue. The government hopes to add 100 autism resource teachers a year until the quota is filled.
Autism is one of the clearest examples of a developmental disorder that can be ameliorated through specific educational methods. But the right timing and training are crucial. As New Brunswick parents have become more aware of their autistic children's needs, they have grown more adamant that the province take the necessary steps to ensure autistic students receive fair access to education.
Given the particular methods and expertise required to teach autistic children, it makes sense to designate a substantial number of resource teachers for this purpose. Autism spectrum disorder affects one in 166 children. Until the full complement of 400 resources teachers is reached, demand for the special instructors will likely be high.
The details of the Graham government's five-year plan for public education will not be released until spring. But the speed with which Kelly Lamrock has committed to living up to this key campaign pledge is promising. If New Brunswick is to grow "from the worst to the first" in Canadian education, schools will need far more resources to help special needs students.
The broad outlines of Lamrock's education strategy include "giving teachers the liberty to try innovative methods of learning" and rewarding those who are successful, and intervening earlier with special needs students and exceptional learners. The government's autism announcement does both, and we hope it proves up to the challenge. Autistic students deserve the same opportunities to learn as their peers.