Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Autism in NB Schools and Gordon Porter's New Minister of Education

Gordon Porter                            Education Minister Jody Carr

Gordon Porter was one of the 5 men  who formed the David Alward transition team that advised New Brunswick's David Alward as he prepared his transition from Premier Designate to Premier. One of the key tasks they handled was to assist in drafting the 15 Conservative MLA's who would form the pared down Cabinet. It is no surprise that MLA Jody Carr was named to fill the post of Education Minister. Carr, his wife Krista Carr, and brother and fellow MLA Jack Carr, are all disciples of Gordon Porter's extreme inclusion philosophy. They have all resisted for several years, in conjunction with Gordon Porter and the NB Association for Community Living with which Mr. Porter and the Carrs are affiliated,  efforts by parents of some autistic children to have their children educated in neighborhood schools but outside of the mainstream classroom

Gordon Porter began introducing in NB his extreme model of inclusion, with its "all children in the regular, mainstream classroom", decades ago. His views on inclusive education do not appear to have changed, literally, since mankind walked on the moon. During the MacKay Review of NB's inclusive education system, and while Mr. Porter was chairperson of the NB Human Rights Commission,  he spoke to me, and another autism advocate, contemptuously and angrily, dismissing us as "you people". While in the position of NB Human Rights Chair Gordon Porter's HR officers drafted a position on accommodation in NB Schools ..  a position which supports Porter's "keep all children in the mainstream classroom" vision.  

Gordon Porter's philosophy resulted in Conor being placed in a mainstream classroom where he was overstimulated and overwhelmed by being forced to learn a different curriculum by a different method than the other students in the class. Conor came home every day with bite marks on his hands and wrists while in Gordon Porter's inclusive classroom setting. The  biting declined and ceased almost entirely once he was removed at our request to a quieter setting. The evidence did not support Conor's inclusion in a mainstream classroom and school and district officials respected that evidence and accommodated my son's disability. I am thankful that they did.  

Gordon Porter's extreme inclusion philosophy has lost ground in NB schools despite his stranglehold on positions of influence in education circles. The Ministerial Committee on Inclusive education, which began during the Lord government years, and continued during the Graham government of the past 4 years,  made a commitment to an evidence based approach to inclusive education based on the best interests of the individual child in its definition of  inclusive education. That evidence based approach permits children like my son Conor, diagnosed with Autistic Disorder and assessed profound developmental delays, to receive ABA based instruction in a separate, quieter area of the school,  while visiting common areas of the school such as the gym, pool, kitchen etc where they can also meet other children. 

Hopefully Education Minister Jody Carr will shake free of the dominating influence of Gordon Porter and not try to roll back the progress that has been made in New Brunswick schools  by so many autistic children, including my son Conor. I am told by some people whose opinions I value that I should give Minister Carr an opportunity to do the right thing by autistic children so I will but I will do so reluctantly, cautiously and with an  eye to ensuring that the Porter Philosophy of Inclusion does not force my son back into the mainstream classroom where his education, his health and his safety would be at risk.  Hopefully new Education Minister Jody Carr will not try to undo the commitment to evidence based education that is necessary for many children with disabilities and disorders, including some with Autism Spectrum Disorders, to receive a real education in New Brunswick schools.


Anonymous said...

I agree it is best to give Jody Carr a fair chance. However, history is not in his favor. I have no doubt Gordon Porter will be 'advising' Jody both in public and behind the scenes. His view of inclusion is faltered,dangerous, and extreme.
We will see..andI for one will be watching.

Dawn Bowie

Carl said...

i believe we will have to closely watch jody carr's handling of autism issues and be prepared to take the message further and as loudly as necessary to make sure that our children are protected

between various people reading this blog we do have the resources to have our voices heard and the platforms to make sure the message gets through

Mom on a Mission said...

I will be watching these matters closely in District 2 and 16 and the very minute I get a whiff of 'total inclusion to the exclusion of learning' I will be pounding on Jody Carr's office door... and I will expect all the other old dinosaurs of the autism issue to be standing there with me! In my mind Jody gets one chance and one chance only. He needs to earn my trust, given his track record and his past associations.

Anonymous said...

Mom on a Mission,

You may be suprised how many old dinosaurs that will be there with you! I, for one will be dusting off the suit of armor, if the circumstances permit.
Trust me....they know who we are and what are capable of.


Anonymous said...

Teachers can now barely keep up with the challenges of teaching with an already vast array of aptitudes and ability levels academically, socially and behaviorally. Add children with special needs like autism to the regular classroom where the teacher has not had specific training on how to instruct and care for such children; seems like a recipe for disaster.
I know of schools overseas that are specifically for children with special needs. Their level of care, attention, and education is outstanding. It appears this may be a step in the wrong direction.

Parent with an Autistic child