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Autism Education in the Era of the NBACL Inclusion Government

Posted Apr 21 2012 8:23am

The New Brunswick Association of Community Living now determines inclusion and disabilities policies in the New Brunswick government with immediate repercussions in the  Department of Education and Early Childhood Development ... to the detriment of many children with autism disorders.  While always very influential in NB government education decisions the NBACL is now effectively in charge of disability and inclusion policies in New Brunswick schools. The ramifications for children and students severely affected by autism disorders and intellectual disabilities are very serious.  Independent, quality, autism specific training has been abandoned in favor of in house training and more and more pressure will be brought to bear on district and school officials to require all children receive instruction in a mainstream classroom even those for whom the mainstream classroom causes physical harm and disrupts their learning and development.

In the decade preceding the election of the Alward government New Brunswick made many gains in providing providing evidence based autism interventions to New Brunswick preschoolers and students over the decade preceding the Alward government election.  Those gains were provided via UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training, a program recognized by US autism experts David Celiberti and Eric Larsson as a model for other Canadian and some US jurisdictions.  Those of us who advocated for these autism specific services were opposed strenuously by the very well connected and influential New Brunswick Association for Community Living.  Now, under the Alward government the NBACL is even more influential. NBACL actually sets Alward government disability policy and ensures compliance by Education officials from the Deputy Minister level down to the teachers and aides that deliver the programs.  Along the way the UNB-CEL Autism training has been dropped in favor of in house "training" and a renewed push for dumping all children in the mainstream classroom without regard for whether the classroom is the appropriate learning environment for them.  There is no room for flexibility or accommodation of children and students with severe autism disorders with intellectual disabilities in the NBACL Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. 
New Brunswick Premier David Alward has publicly acknowledged the role of the New Brunswick Association of Community Living related organizations in setting inclusion and disability policy in New Brunswick as was made clear on the community living organizations' IRIS site. IRIS is the Institute for Research and Development and Inclusion in Society. It purports to be the "research" branch of Community Living Assocations across Canada. The IRIS board of directors consists of present and former Community Living Association officials from accross Canada including former NBACL official Lorraine Silliphant.  In February 2012 IRIS spent a week indoctrinating high ranking New Brunswick education officials including Deputy Ministers and Assistant Deputy Ministers in the Community Living Association philosophy based policies of full mainstream classroom inclusion as was bragged about on the IRIS web site
"New Brunswick Premier David Alward issued a letter Friday February 4th to all participants in the ‘Policy Making for Inclusion – Leadership Development Program’ that will be delivered in Fredericton by IRIS February 6-10 to senior officials with the Government of New Brunswick. The program is designed to assist policy makers achieve the government’s platform commitment to “enable New Brunswickers with disabilities to actively participate in all aspects of society and take their rightful place as full citizens.” With Deputy Ministers, Assistant Deputy Ministers, Human Resources Directors and Policy/Program Directors from across government participating in the week-long series of leadership development workshops, major strides will be taken towards creating a public service in New Brunswick ready and able to deliver on the government commitment to people with disabilities. In his letter, Premier Alward thanked The Institute “for developing this program to inform our public servants on the latest research on disability and inclusion…” A core resource for the program is the guide to Disability and Inclusion Based Policy Analysis just published by The Institute."

Even without the indoctrination of high ranking government officials in a week long session of Community Living policies the NBACL exercised a dominant role in the NB government.  NBACL official Krista Carr is the wife of Early Education and Childhood Development Minister Jody Carr.  Minister Carr's brother Jack Carr, also a member of the governing Alward Conservatives, is a former NBACL employee. Gordon Porter, an icon of the NBACL and CACL organizations, was a member of the Alward transition team and is now conducting yet another inclusion review with the aid of NBACL friendly team members.  Only views consistent with the NBACL total inclusion beliefs are tolerated.  In the past high school principals have been trained by NBACL officials who handed out awards annually to teachers who exemplify best (as in NBACL compliant) inclusion policies.

Admittedly the cliches and buzz words sound good. Community Living Association spokespersons never tire of telling us how awful things were in the bad old days before they changed everything for the better.  The NBACL, the CACL, IRIS and other CLA groups never, ever, acknowledge the evidence of the harm they have caused to some people by their fanatical obsessions like total classroom inclusion for all.   My son with severe autistic disorder and intellectual disability suffered in a mainstream classroom.  Conscientious educators locally, who actually work with and know my son have accommodated him with a flexible inclusion model, a model which is now at risk in the NBACL Department of Education and Early Childhood Education era.  The NBACL aristocracy that sets and enforces inclusion policy does not mention evidence like my son's case, that contradicts their everyone in the classroom philosophy.

So too the total inclusion extremists pay no attention to severely impaired adults who can not live in an ad hoc, loosely monitored group home system make no mention of the adults with autism disorders and intellectual disabilities living in psychiatric facilities in NB.  Instead they pretend all is swell, give each other awards, pat each other on the back incessantly and fight efforts to establish or even discuss an intermediate level of residential care with professionally trained assistants and higher levels of security for those who need such interventions.

There is no evidence to support the policies of the NBACL which now sets inclusion policies for New Brunswick government departments including Education and Early Childhood development. The evidence based consideration of the  best interests of individual students is in serious, serious threat of extinction in the NBACL dominated Alward government era. Specialized training such as that provided by the UNB-CEL Autism training program is now gone.  Flexible inclusion policies such as that which have accommodated my son with autism specific instruction will be targeted.

The NBACL is in charge.
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