Saturday, April 21, 2012

Autism Education in the Era of the NBACL Inclusion Government

The New Brunswick Association of Community Living now determines inclusion and disabilities policies in the New Brunswick government with immediate repercussions in the  Department of Education and Early Childhood Development ... to the detriment of many children with autism disorders.  While always very influential in NB government education decisions the NBACL is now effectively in charge of disability and inclusion policies in New Brunswick schools. The ramifications for children and students severely affected by autism disorders and intellectual disabilities are very serious.  Independent, quality, autism specific training has been abandoned in favor of in house training and more and more pressure will be brought to bear on district and school officials to require all children receive instruction in a mainstream classroom even those for whom the mainstream classroom causes physical harm and disrupts their learning and development.

In the decade preceding the election of the Alward government New Brunswick made many gains in providing providing evidence based autism interventions to New Brunswick preschoolers and students over the decade preceding the Alward government election.  Those gains were provided via UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training, a program recognized by US autism experts David Celiberti and Eric Larsson as a model for other Canadian and some US jurisdictions.  Those of us who advocated for these autism specific services were opposed strenuously by the very well connected and influential New Brunswick Association for Community Living.  Now, under the Alward government the NBACL is even more influential. NBACL actually sets Alward government disability policy and ensures compliance by Education officials from the Deputy Minister level down to the teachers and aides that deliver the programs.  Along the way the UNB-CEL Autism training has been dropped in favor of in house "training" and a renewed push for dumping all children in the mainstream classroom without regard for whether the classroom is the appropriate learning environment for them.  There is no room for flexibility or accommodation of children and students with severe autism disorders with intellectual disabilities in the NBACL Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. 

New Brunswick Premier David Alward has publicly acknowledged the role of the New Brunswick Association of Community Living related organizations in setting inclusion and disability policy in New Brunswick as was made clear on the community living organizations' IRIS site. IRIS is the Institute for Research and Development and Inclusion in Society. It purports to be the "research" branch of Community Living Assocations across Canada. The IRIS board of directors consists of present and former Community Living Association officials from accross Canada including former NBACL official Lorraine Silliphant.  In February 2012 IRIS spent a week indoctrinating high ranking New Brunswick education officials including Deputy Ministers and Assistant Deputy Ministers in the Community Living Association philosophy based policies of full mainstream classroom inclusion as was bragged about on the IRIS web site:

"New Brunswick Premier David Alward issued a letter Friday February 4th to all participants in the ‘Policy Making for Inclusion – Leadership Development Program’ that will be delivered in Fredericton by IRIS February 6-10 to senior officials with the Government of New Brunswick. The program is designed to assist policy makers achieve the government’s platform commitment to “enable New Brunswickers with disabilities to actively participate in all aspects of society and take their rightful place as full citizens.” With Deputy Ministers, Assistant Deputy Ministers, Human Resources Directors and Policy/Program Directors from across government participating in the week-long series of leadership development workshops, major strides will be taken towards creating a public service in New Brunswick ready and able to deliver on the government commitment to people with disabilities. In his letter, Premier Alward thanked The Institute “for developing this program to inform our public servants on the latest research on disability and inclusion…” A core resource for the program is the guide to Disability and Inclusion Based Policy Analysis just published by The Institute."

Even without the indoctrination of high ranking government officials in a week long session of Community Living policies the NBACL exercised a dominant role in the NB government.  NBACL official Krista Carr is the wife of Early Education and Childhood Development Minister Jody Carr.  Minister Carr's brother Jack Carr, also a member of the governing Alward Conservatives, is a former NBACL employee. Gordon Porter, an icon of the NBACL and CACL organizations, was a member of the Alward transition team and is now conducting yet another inclusion review with the aid of NBACL friendly team members.  Only views consistent with the NBACL total inclusion beliefs are tolerated.  In the past high school principals have been trained by NBACL officials who handed out awards annually to teachers who exemplify best (as in NBACL compliant) inclusion policies.

Admittedly the cliches and buzz words sound good. Community Living Association spokespersons never tire of telling us how awful things were in the bad old days before they changed everything for the better.  The NBACL, the CACL, IRIS and other CLA groups never, ever, acknowledge the evidence of the harm they have caused to some people by their fanatical obsessions like total classroom inclusion for all.   My son with severe autistic disorder and intellectual disability suffered in a mainstream classroom.  Conscientious educators locally, who actually work with and know my son have accommodated him with a flexible inclusion model, a model which is now at risk in the NBACL Department of Education and Early Childhood Education era.  The NBACL aristocracy that sets and enforces inclusion policy does not mention evidence like my son's case, that contradicts their everyone in the classroom philosophy.

So too the total inclusion extremists pay no attention to severely impaired adults who can not live in an ad hoc, loosely monitored group home system make no mention of the adults with autism disorders and intellectual disabilities living in psychiatric facilities in NB.  Instead they pretend all is swell, give each other awards, pat each other on the back incessantly and fight efforts to establish or even discuss an intermediate level of residential care with professionally trained assistants and higher levels of security for those who need such interventions.

There is no evidence to support the policies of the NBACL which now sets inclusion policies for New Brunswick government departments including Education and Early Childhood development. The evidence based consideration of the  best interests of individual students is in serious, serious threat of extinction in the NBACL dominated Alward government era. Specialized training such as that provided by the UNB-CEL Autism training program is now gone.  Flexible inclusion policies such as that which have accommodated my son with autism specific instruction will be targeted.

The NBACL is in charge.


Anonymous said...

Harold, you have raised and continue to raise very real concerns, and validated them with hard-core facts. I am not saying inclusion(overall) is not a good thing, the opposite in fact in a broad sense. However, there is a very serious flaw within it which you are bringing to the forefront, yet again. The DOE must listen with an open mind. But with Gordon Porter there, and NBACL with its influence..and by the way NBACL -> CONFLICT OF INTEREST...means we must keep on raising the issue both as parents, and as a collective group representing Autism in New Brunswick.

I am 'in' on this debate and issue!

Dawn Bowie

cabinfever07 said...

This is a very sad day for New Brunswick children who have problems being "dumped" into the mainstream classroom. As a retired educator, I have always maintained that total inclusion is detrimental to good education for all. I remember having a classroom of 28 students, six of whom were regular stream, 14 were at a level four, six were mentally challenged and two were place there by the court. In short, it was impossible to teach these children so that all would a matter of fact, all suffered. I mentioned this to my principal and he said you just have to do the best you can with them. The following semester, the principal and vice principal had to teach math to these students and they very nicely divided the classroom in two and the two students that were placed there by the court were removed from the class and put into the library for tutoring. So much for inclusion.
While I was minister of FCS, I remember talking with a parent who has an intellectually challenged child and this parent said it is criminal to have total inclusion and he felt his son suffered because of this policy. Some children may benefit from the program, but many suffer.
The other issue I have with the Alward government's decision is that they are disbanding the UNB program for specialized training for children with autism. This program was heralded as the best program in North America.
Again, it is sad that a premier, who said he would listen to the people, all of a sudden has become deaf.

Cynthia Bartlett said...

I fail to understand why the opposition has not called up the Conservatives on the blatant conflict of interest with having Minister Carr's wife still in place as Executive Director of the NBCLA.The opposition needs to step up to their role and challenge both this issue and the loss of the UNB training programme. Just exactly who is listening? the former Minister Shryver herself said there would be a psunami of need from the autistic population, and it is most definitely here already.

Anonymous said...

The conflict with Minister Carr and his wife being the Executive Director of the NBACL is blatant and in your face. Gordon Porter's affiliation with Premier Alward as a campaign manager is well known. Porter and others have made $$$$$$$ out of inclusion and new service delivery models in NB.
All of a sudden since the Conservatives were elected, NBACL has lots of money.
If the new inclusion model puts all kids in "regular" classrooms, parents should revolt.
Just what is it with this government anyway?

farmwifetwo said...

Why don't parents revolt... Simple... there are very few of us that truly give a s....t.

EVERY person that deals with disabled children or any child for that matter will tell you that 25% of the parents work day in and day out to provide the necessary supports, education etc that these children need. 75% want it done for them.

I had such a discussion only last night with a teacher and she'll tell you that usually they are told "you're the educator, you deal with it". So, the system cuts everywhere and anywhere it can... Especially, with this movement - and in autismland too - that being disabled is a "way of being" not a disability... So, they cut services and money. If you aren't "disabled" then you don't need it.... right???

Harold, I know absolutely nothing about The Human Rights Commission nor the Charter but since people use them for silly demands... can you use it for this??

We may disagree on a number of things but I have always, always, always, lobbied for CHOICE in care and treatment options. This does not allow for people to make a choice that fits their needs... this is "my way is the best" and I don't respect that.

I hope in the end you get what you need for you and yours.

Kate T. said...

I think I might be missing something here. I don't want to sound all devil's advocate, but I want to be sure I am clear on the issues before I form an opinion. Having spent many years working with children with Autism in more than one province, I have seen both the benefits and the disadvantages to full inclusion. What I'm failing to grasp here, is that it sounds like you are against inclusion period? For many students, it is appropriate to be included in a classroom of their peers, and with individualized supports it is very successful. The schools I have worked with recognise that full inclusion is NOT appropriate for everyone, and have developed IEPs, emphasis on the I for Individual. I don't see where NBACL is said to promote FULL and absolute Inclusion. It soundsto me like they are seeking individualized inclusion, where appropriate, and desired by the parents. Am I interpreting NBACL's position incorrectly?

Unknown said...

Kate T. with respect you don't appear to have read my comments correctly.

1. I agree with FLEXIBLE Inclusion. That means a range of options depending on the best interests of the individual child based on the evidence. I

2. NBACL & Gordon Porter promote FULL inclusion defined as regular classroom placement for ALL students. Please read my comments carefully. Also take into account that I have been actively involved in the MacKay and Ministerial Inclusive Education reviews as well as having been an Autism Society NB rep in various Education Department discussions. NBACL opposes accommodations for instruction outside the classroom which my son received despite the opposition to such accommodations by NBACL.

Kate T. said...

Thanks for clarifying, I knew I must have been misunderstanding. I appreciate how you could be advocating so strongly against forced full inclusion, given the sad experience your family has gone through.
I am wondering if you could point me in the direction of where to see evidence that NBACL is truly against accomodations where it is appropriate for the individual. I'm hoping that I haven't been supporting an organisation with a misguided understanding of what they truly represent. I was under the (perhaps?) mistaken impression that NBACL supported individualized accomodations, and inclusion as appropriate to each individual. As a passionate advocate for high school students with special needs, I'd like to make sure I haven't had the wool over my eyes all this time.

Unknown said...

Kate T

Perhaps you could read what the NBACL says about inclusion on its web site. What follows is only a very very small selection of statements by NBACL which point to the REGULAR CLASSROOM as the goal of inclusive education. I have posted many times recently and over the years about the statements of position by people like NBACL/CACL icon Gordon Porter who talks incessantly about the regular classroom for all students as the aim of inclusive education. I have also related my personal experience as an Autism representative during the MacKay and Ministerial Inclusive Education review during which the NBACL emphasized their view of inclusive education as being education for all in the REGULAR CLASSROOM.


Support for Inclusive Education

Support for inclusive education can involve many things, including:

The help your child receives for personal needs he or she has;

Various “accommodations” children with disabilities may need to participate in regular school and classroom activities;

The overall support from the school including the leadership and commitment necessary to include all children;

Different ways of thinking about what and how children are taught so that all children can participate in regular classrooms and school activities.


The secret is to find out how the subject being taught in the regular classroom can be used to benefit a particular child.


When a decision is made to modify curriculum, people involved in planning for your child’s inclusion in regular classrooms should look at each subject to see what information, concepts or skills may be relevant for your child.


Key Roles of Principals and Regular Classroom Teachers

Leadership from principals and teachers is often crucial to creating an inclusive school. If principals and teachers have a commitment to meeting the needs of all children, the inclusion of children with disabilities in the school and in regular classrooms will likely happen.


Inclusive education is not just for some children. Being included is not something that a child must be ready for. All children are at all times ready to attend regular schools and classrooms.


Ways to Support Teachers and Your Child in Regular Classrooms