School seclusion rooms concern Autism Society
The Autism Society of P.E.I. says some schools are placing children in so-called seclusion or quiet rooms when more effort should be made to integrate them in the classroom.
These people are trying to carry a bigger load with fewer resources.- Jeff Himelman
The English Language School Board says schools use the rooms to allow children to calm down when they become over-stimulated or aggressive in the classroom.
Autism Society president Jeff Himelman told CBC News there is often a lack of planning and co-ordination when it comes to providing services for students with special needs. As a result, he said the rooms can be over-used.
Staffing shortages, he said, make the problem even worse.
"We're seeing reductions in hours allotted to educational assistants, so these people are trying to carry a bigger load with fewer resources, which always has a ripple effect through the school system," said Himelman.
Teachers lack training and support, he said, making the problem that much worse.
Angela Gillis told CBC News her six-year-old son Cole spends most of his school day in Sherwood School's quiet room with his educational assistant. He was diagnosed in January with high-functioning autism. Gillis feels the school isn't doing enough to try to integrate her son with the rest of the students in his class. She says she's worried the isolation is hampering his development.
"He's starting to have anxiety attacks now before going to school, and he doesn't want to go to school at all," she said.
"I feel bad for him because I don't want him to look back and think, 'For my first couple years in school I was stuck in this room.' No child should have to go through that."
A spokesperson for the English Language School Board said according to board policy all students should be in the most inclusive environment possible, but that environment can change throughout the day depending on a student's behaviour and needs.