Ottawa

Parents unimpressed with autism training, funding plan

The funding the Ford government offered school boards to help kids with autism won’t be enough and won't prevent disruption in the classroom, according to some of their parents.

Government promising more funding for teacher training, supports

Emily Sheridan plays with her son Oliver. She says he can't be in a classroom without real supports. (CBC)

Funding the Ford government is offering school boards to help kids with autism won't be enough and won't prevent disruption in the classroom, according to parents of autistic children.

Mick Kitor's son has autism and told CBC Radio's All In A Day that Monday's announcement is another example of bad policy on the file from this government.

"It seems like Doug Ford's government is all about cut twice and measure once," he said.

On Monday, the government reiterated an August 2018 promise to give school boards an average of $12,300 for each new student on the autism spectrum who enters the school system, while also expanding after-school programs and creating a training course for teachers.

Kitor said it won't help students who will begin returning to classrooms in a matter of weeks.

"If you just cut out their therapy that they need and dump them in a school, then bad things are going to happen," he said.

No time for learning

Kerry Monaghan, who has a child with autism, said the government's latest move is not going to help. 

"At first I was devastated and now I am angry, to be honest," she said.

"None of these solutions are going to offer any kind of solace to parents who require extensive therapy for their children in order to learn basic life skills."

Emily Sheridan's six-year-old son Oliver has been going to school a few days a week, but she said without real therapy, it's not possible. 

"Safety for him, unless someone is watching him, is a huge concern," she said. 

"Unless Oliver gets one-on-one help at school with someone who can help him learn, communicate, be around other children, this is going to be a disaster for him."

Families of children with autism stage a protest of the government's autism changes outside Queen's Park in this file photo. New training announced Monday is not enough, several parents told CBC. (Ali Chiasson/CBC)

Kitor said teachers don't have time for the additional training.

"Kids are going to be hitting the schools within weeks. There is not enough time to get people trained up."

The province just announced new funding to prepare school boards to deal with students with autism...Does this address the problem? We hear one parent's thoughts on that. 7:37

He said some children with autism are non-verbal or can get aggressive when their routines are disrupted. If that happens without the proper supports, all students will suffer, he said.

"This is going to impact anybody who has a child in school, because you are going to have a whole bunch of people who are unprepared to participate in school," he said.

He urged the government to reconsider.

"It is not too late to admit you made a mistake."

Teachers frustrated 

The government has created a crisis for parents and teachers, according to Elizabeth Kettle, who leads the Ottawa-Carleton chapter of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario.

"Instead of fixing a problem they saw they actually are downloading it onto the school boards," she told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Tuesday.

"Teachers are teachers, they are not therapists."

The province is offering more money to support students with autism who will soon be going to school. It's also training up teachers to deal with the changes, but their union doesn't think they should be therapists. 6:57

Her greatest concern, she said, is potential burnout among teachers who are already struggling to meet the needs of students. 

"It's heartbreaking to see this happening," Kettle said. "I think they need to listen to the parents."