Kitchener-Waterloo

Parents rally at Queen's Park to demand more for children with autism

The Ontario Autism Coalition organized a rally at Queen’s Park Oct. 26 to protest what they say is a lack of adequate support for children with autism in this province.

We hear you, education minister tells frustrated parents

Nine-year-old Kenner Fee speaks at a rally for greater autism support in schools for kids like him. (Adetayo Bero/ CBC News)

A protest at Queen's Park brought the concerns of parents with autistic children in Ontario to the provincial government's doorstep.

Dozens of parents - many with their children - protested a lack of adequate supports and accommodations for children with autism.

"I want to tell the boss that my service dog Ivy is not a pet," said Kenner Fee, the nine-year-old Waterloo boy who was recently the subject of a widely-publicized Ontario Human Rights appeal.

Fee and his family were fighting a decision by the Waterloo Catholic District School Board that forbids him from having the dog in class.

"This rally is happening because the provincial liberals aren't listening," said Craig Fee, Kenner's father.

Aside from the lack of proper supports, parents were concerned about the lack of properly trained educational assistants and teachers in the classroom.

Currently the training for educational assistants and teachers is a weekend course, according to Shawna Fleming, a Waterloo board-certified behavior analyst and autism therapist.

"I would challenge anyone from the board of trustees to take that weekend course and come and meet a child with autism and put a behaviour plan together," she told CBC K-W. "They would not be able to."

Education minister Mitzie Hunter made a stop at the rally and was invited to the podium by the Ontario Autism Coalition, the group hosting the protest.
Mitzie Hunter, minister of education, also shared some remarks. (Adetayo Bero/ CBC News)

"We hear you" Hunter said. "We are very committed to the success of all students, including students who have autism."

Following Hunter's comments, Progressive Conservative party leader Patrick Brown took the opportunity to share some remarks of his own.

"I can tell you we will not accept this pattern we've seen from the Wynne liberal government," he told the crowd.

The province recently announced a pilot project that the government said would address many of the issues in the education system when it comes to kids with autism.

The province's new pilot project will:

       
  • Provide dedicated spaces for external practitioners of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) to deliver on-site autism services.
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  • Provide education assistants with access to voluntary 40-hour online targeted training and professional learning sessions.

  •    
  • Provide funding to hire an ABA expertise professional with Board Certified Behaviour Analyst (BCBA) certification/qualification or equivalent qualification.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tayo Bero

Journalist

Tayo is a radio producer and writer with CBC. A self-proclaimed foodie, she is also passionate about equity, inclusion and making sure the people around her stay woke. Find her on Twitter at @tayobero

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