Ottawa

Province's back-to-school plan failing kids with autism, Ottawa mom says

An Ottawa mother is giving the province a failing grade when it comes to supporting children with autism as they return to school this fall.

Class sizes, distancing rules, staff shortage make for difficult decisions

Students at one Ottawa school sit in desks spaced farther apart than usual on Sept. 8, 2020. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

An Ottawa mother is giving the province a failing grade when it comes to supporting children with autism as they return to school this fall.

Kate Logue, whose 10-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son both have autism, said she's concerned about class sizes, a lack of teaching assistants and other changes brought in to deal with the pandemic.

"The government really has made very little effort to even discuss how children with special needs are going to be taken care of through COVID," Logue said.

Logue's daughter Ruby will be returning to school this month, but Logue said it was a difficult decision.

Kate Logue says she initially planned to enrol her daughter Ruby in remote learning this school year, but decided against it. (Submitted by Kate Logue)

Initially, Logue opted for remote learning for Ruby, but after learning more about her board's virtual school plan, she said it no longer felt like the best choice because her daughter would be losing touch with the teachers and classmates she's known for years.

"Socialization, for autistic children, is very important. She goes to great lengths to communicate with others," Logue said.

Logue said distancing rules make it especially difficult for her daughter, who finds it challenging to stay seated for a long period of time.

She said she is continuing to work with her daughter's school to ensure she will get the necessary support.

Meanwhile, her son is staying home because he is non-verbal and needs "a great deal of support."

'What we need is more staff'

In a statement to CBC News, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said it's providing $10 million in one-time spending to support students with special needs in the classroom. 

The statement also noted that the federal government has contributed $12.5 million for students with mental health issues and other unique needs.

For Logue, that's not nearly enough. 

"What we need is more staff," she said, particularly personal education assistants.

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