There can be hope for children with autism in BC schools
Parents want evidence‐based learning programs and supports established in all B.C. school districts.
February 17 2014, Surrey, BC: Recent news stories such as the Seclusion and Restraint report and most recently the story of Susan DeBeck, a Vancouver teacher who claims she was fired for standing up for her students with special needs, shows the education system is in a state of crisis when it comes to providing appropriate supports for students with special needs.
A local non‐profit autism support group is reaching out to the Minister of Education and district administration across BC to educate them about Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), which is the scientifically supported gold standard in teaching and behaviour management.
ABA is a structured teaching method in which functional skills are broken down and taught one step at a time. That means that children with autism can learn and flourish in all areas including language and communication, play and leisure, self help, life skills and academics.
Families of children with autism often put ABA teams together to work with their children at home. Dione Costanzo, director of the ABA Support Network says that the results are worth the emotional and financial stress.
However, once a child with autism enters school in a district that does not have supports for ABA programs, the results achieved at home can be severely compromised, says Costanzo. “All the successes achieved can grind to a halt and often the child regresses.”
ABA is widely considered to be the most effective, evidence‐based learning approach for children with autism yet Surrey is the only school district in B.C. that has an established system for hiring ABA‐trained teaching aides.
Costanzo says that the ABA Support Network and parents are on a mission to change this.
“Children have a right to an education and ABA is the best method to achieve this for children with autism,” says Costanzo. “Implementing these programs, and training and hiring more ABA teaching assistants is the right thing to do, and it's the law.”
According to the landmark Supreme Court of BC ruling – Hewko v. B.C., 2006 BCSC 1638 ‐ what is required for children with autism to access an education is adherence to their established ABA programs, and the availability of teaching aides that are trained to carry it out. In most B.C. school districts, ABA programs are not accommodated nor do teaching aides have the proper training to support these programs.
Costanzo says that implementing the ABA programs is a cost‐neutral exercise, it just requires the political will.
“Getting an appropriate education system for children with autism in place with ABA‐trained teaching aides requires political will and leadership,” she says. “It will not increase costs but it will be utilizing existing funds more effectively.”
The ABA Support Network is a parent‐led, non‐profit organization whose mission is to improve access to ABA support and services for individuals with autism.