The foundation for the autism service gains that have been made in New Brunswick over the past several years has been dismantled and shut down for good. The screen image above is what I found when I did a search of the University of New Brunswick web site looking to see what, if any, course would still be offered by the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training program. The content section of the screen, however, was literally blank. The UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training Program is no more.
I was aware for some time that the Alward-Carr-Porter team would not continue to train education assistants and resource teachers through the program. Autism training will be done "in house" by an education department hierarchy that resisted the program in the first place because it wasn't their project and because they thought it cost too much. Now pre-school early intervention autism workers will no longer be trained at UNB-CEL either. Apparently Minister Carr and his combined education-early childhood development team feels that it can do better by consulting experts to instruct our autism intervention agencies on how to provide their own versions of in house early autism intervention. Minister Carr and Gordon Porter will call the services they oversee evidence based but an evidence based autism intervention requires a level of quality and integrity that in house training subject to conflicting adult interests is unlikely to meet.
The UNB-CEL Autism program arose as a response to determined advocacy by parents of autistic children. The program provided NB`s autistic children and students with quality and integrity in the intervention and instruction they received. Former Premier Bernard Lord responded very personally, and very constructively, despite the at times combative nature or our advocacy, to our requests. His government looked for service providers that could provide the necessary early intervention services. Rather than import and pay huge fees to import services from Ontario a steering committee of various autism professionals, academics and parents involved with autism issues thought it would be a good idea to develop a program using local expertise. Premier Lord, and after him Premier Graham, agreed and UNB-CEL provided the autism training for the services our children needed.
Anne Higgins, a brilliant administrator who at that time was with the University of New Brunswick was a key part of the group that founded the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training program. She put a tight organizational plan together and implemented it with incredible efficiency. UNB Professor Emeritus (Psychology) and clinical psychologist Paul McDonnell and UNB Psychology professor Barb D'Entremont led the team at UNB that developed the content for the program. Private autism agencies were established and the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training program was used to train early autism intervention and clinical supervisors for New Brunswick's two official language groups.
New Brunswick parents of autistic children advocated for an extension of the UNB autism training to the school system with requests that teacher assistants and resource teachers working with students with autism also receive the UNB autism training. Both Premier Lord and Premier Graham, in direct discussions with representatives of New Brunswick's autism community, responded positively.
The training of early intervention and education personnel working with autistic children and students met with fierce resistance, some of it from career bureaucrats in the higher echelons of the Department of Education and some of it from New Brunswick's inaccurately characterized "inclusion" and "community" movement. Now with Minister Carr and NBACL inclusion icon Gordon Porter in charge of both early childhood development and schools the UNB-CEL autism training is no longer wanted. The foundation of our autism gains in recent years has been abandoned. My comments are gloomy but they reflect current realities under this administration.
I would like to end this comment on a positive note though by thanking all persons involved with the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training Program, particularly Anne Higgins, Paul McDonnell and Barb D`Entremont. I would also like to thank all the parents whose efforts in advocating for early intervention and education assistance for our autistic children led to the establishment of the UNB-CEL autism training. Without determined, focused autism parent advocacy there would have been no UNB-CEL autism program. Thank you all.