Friday, August 22, 2008

Canada's Autism Secret - Part 1

Canada has an autism secret.

It's too bad really because this is a not a dark, horrible secret. It is a good news secret. The secret is New Brunswick's autism service delivery model for children.

Nova Scotia and Ontario have made negative autism news recently because of long treatment waiting lists in Ontario and a lottery system in Nova Scotia that is forcing some families to move elsewhere looking for early intervention for their autistic children and ABA based education for autistic children in Ontario schools. Here in New Brunswick all is not perfect but we are doing well with little ... so far. We have had success which has drawn some attention at events like the CAUCE Conference 2008 and the ABA International Symposium in Chicago, 2008.

In New Brunswick we have an agency system for delivery of pre-school autism interventions. The agencies are monitored by government and have trained Autism Support Workers and Clinical Supervisors providing pre-school intervention to autistic children. The ASW's and CS's receive their training though the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training Program. No model is perfect but New Brunswick does not have the severe waiting list problems experienced by so many in Ontario.

In education New Brunswick has avoided the fights over whether ABA can be practiced in the schools. My son, Conor, has been receiving ABA instruction in a separate room for over 3 years. New Brunswick has begun training teacher aides and resource teachers to provide ABA based learning in our schools during this time period. They also receive Autism Intervention Training at UNB-CEL.

Conor is in a separate classroom, at our request, because, for him, the mainstream classroom is not an appropriate learning environment. He was overwhelmed in the classroom, coming home with bite marks on his hands. He is not on the same learning level as his chronological peers and it made no sense to have him being taught a radically different curriculum by different teaching methods. He does go to the field house or gym for physical activity and the school's swimming pool. He also learns skills such as cooking or helps around the school with small tasks like lowering the flag. New Brunswick has moved away from a rigid inclusion model of dumping everyone into the same classroom to one of accommodating different learning styles for students with serious learning challenges.

The swimming pool at Conor's school is also the community pool, the Fredericton Indoor Swimming Pool. We have an annual family pass and use it frequently; 3 to 5 times a week. Last night we were at the pool and the teacher aide who worked with Conor last year was also there. Conor was excited to see him. Afterward, as he has periodically as the summer wore on, Conor was again asking for school. A pretty good recommendation for New Brunswick's autism education model.

New Brunswick's autism service model is not perfect. There is a need for more funding to retain trained personnel in the pre-school years and to increase the number of hours of therapy received per week. If Canada ever elects a federal government that gives a damn about autistic Canadians then we might some day see federal health care dollars for autism received by the provinces which could help enhance our services here in New Brunswick.

New Brunswick should be proud of what it has done for autistic pre-schoolers and students. When it comes to autistic adults ... that is another story.


Anonymous said...

Although not perfect, our autism services for children with autism here in NB is working. Our Education officials have certainly stepped up to the plate over the years and our students with autism are finally receiving learing opportunities. Not perfect but heading in the right direction. Our son is making his transition to Leo Hayes High School and from all accounts it is a smooth one with ALL his needs being met. Bravo!! it has been along time in coming :)
My hope is that our Government officials continue to support autism in NB for our pre-schooler's and students.
Now we have to work on Adult services...I am hopeful that dialougues with Government officials will continue to be positive and productive.

Dawn & Albert Bowie

Anonymous said...

Out here in BC ABA options in public schools are pretty spotty and seem to be based on the individual parent's ability to negotiate with the local school district and school AO. In our situation our son has a 1-1 support worker who runs his educational program. His support worker was hired from our home based team to be our son's "aid" which is positive in that it allows a lot of home-school sharing and integration. We provide the Lions share of funds for our Behavioral Consultant to work with school staff and to develop educational programs (the Provincial Government provides a small monthly contribution to our ABA program costs...they provide $500 per month in total...$6000 per year). It is working simply due to the fact that we can afford to pay the additional fees out of pocket AND we are effective advocates (my wife and I have both worked in ths school systems). For families with less financial ability and less familiarity with advocacy skills... it does not work.