B.C. school shorting autistic son, mother says
The mother of an autistic boy in Chilliwack, B.C., says only part of the special education funding allocated to her son is being used to help him at school.
""He's not getting the support he needs," said Crystal Gerrits, whose six-year-old son, Cooper, is in Grade 1.
Cooper gets three hours, half his school day, with a special education assistant.
But psychiatrists have told her he needs help full time, said Gerrits.
"When [the assistant] is not in the classroom, you could see him chewing his nails to the point that his fingers were bleeding," she said. "We'd see him zoning out in terms of his body language. We'd see him flop on the floor and refuse to do what he was asked to do the anxiety just became extreme."
Gerrits said the district gets $36,000 from two government ministries to help treat Cooper's autism, but it’s not all going to support him.
"Even though Cooper brings a certain amount of dollars to the district, they've told us straight out those are not there to support him."
Good behaviour 'punished'
Gerrits said she also was told that if he was acting out more, Cooper would get more time with an assistant.
"It's horrible," she said. "Obviously, I feel he's being punished for all the work we've put into him to try to teach him how to control his emotions."
A spokesperson for School District #33 said they could not speak Thursday about all the specifics of Cooper's case.
The District did say that all the money allocated to help teach special needs children is used for that purpose, but they don't track how much is spent on each child.
Funds go not only to assistant time but also to facilities, transportation, and meetings with parents.
Gerrits said there is not enough money to go around and she has been warned that Cooper’s support will be partly cut back before the end of the school year.
On Monday, CBC News reported on one teacher at a Vancouver Island School who said classroom resources are stretched to the limit by underfunding for special needs children.
Teacher Naomi Nilsson said she has 27 students in her class at a Duncan school and eight of the children have special needs.
"I know that they are not going to get the education that they deserve — and I know that society is going to be damaged because of that," Nilsson said.
The B.C. government has acknowledged the problem and has promised an additional $165 million over three years to provide special needs assistance.
With files from the CBC's Lisa Johnson