Friday, September 01, 2006

Leadership Mr. Lord? You Don't Say?

Leadership Mr. Lord?

Whenever I pick up a paper I read party spin about the superiority of your leadership, especially of course in the Times Transcript, which has become a public chuckle in New Brunswick with its constant Bernard Lord worship. Why don't you sit down directly with the parents of autistic children who have missed out on a real education during your "leadership" in the Legislature and brag to them about the wonders of Bernard Lord's leadership? While your party ads tout educational inclusion and quality learning agendas the ugly truth is that autistic children have for the most part been denied a real education. Most of them receive glorified baby sitting services while the Teacher Assistants who work with them for safety and behavioural reasons remain untrained in autism and the behavioural techniques that are proven effective in enabling autistic children to learn. Autistic children have missed out on a real education under your leadership.

What is truly sad is that a real leader would know that a made in New Brunswick solution, capable of providing TA's and Resource teachers, in both French and English, the training needed to enable autistic children to truly be included in a learning experience exists right here in New Brunswick. The UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training course has won national recognition for its work in educating pre-school age autism support workers. And now the program has been modified to train school workers.

Right now the Department of Education is training 80 TA's and 9 Methods and Resource Teachers at the UNB-CEL program. Of the 80 TA's, 56 will be anglophone and 24 will be francophone. Before you jump to take credit for this last development please remember that this is only now taking place in the seventh year of your leadership. The 80 trained TA's is a good start but a timid start. With 1000 autistic children in New Brunswick schools and time passing for them they need you to show some of your vaunted leadership right now. They need a commitment from you to continue training a further 4-500 TA's that we know are needed. Only about 100 TA's and Resource Teachers could be trained per year through UNB-CEL but waiting another 3-5 years to develop an entirely new plan for teaching autistic children, as the MacKay report recommends, is not the way to show leadership.

Show us some real leadership Mr. Lord. Make a commitment now to train the TA's and Resource teachers that would allow autistic children to be included in your learning agenda. Don't dither, and don't use the MacKay Report, helpful in some areas but woefully weak in its understanding of autism, as an excuse to keep autistic children from receiving a real education in New Brunswick.

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