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Autistic children would benefit from having specially trained teacher assistants

Posted Sep 12 2008 11:32am

The Daily Gleaner has called for the New Brunswick government to provide autism specific training for Teacher Assistants and Resource Teachers.


In our view: Autistic children would benefit from having specially trained teacher assistants

N.B. school system needs extra resources

As published on page C7 on November 15, 2006

Students with Autism deserve to have the same opportunities other students are afforded in New Brunswick's school system.

But before that can happen they need a support system in place to help them get through difficult periods in their education process.

During the election campaign, Shawn Graham made a pledge to provide training to 100 additional teacher assistants and methods and resource teachers a year for four years to make school easier for the province's estimated 1,000 autistic students.

The Autism Intervention Training Program is offered through UNB's College of Extended Learning.

When it comes to fulfilling this particular pre-election promise, there is no time to waste.

Tanya Michaud's son, Skyler, 14, has a type of Autism known as Asperger's syndrome. He shows signs of aggression when his daily routine is interrupted.

Michaud says the school system doesn't want to deal with his son's aggression and he subsequently has been moved from school to school.

"He does fine in class as long as he is given time to settle into a routine," Michaud said. "I don't understand why he's being shuffled around."

Skyler's mother had to push hard to get Skyler a teacher's assistant when he was at Nashwaaksis Middle School, she said, and as soon as he got one he was fine.

Since he moved to Leo Hayes High School, the aggression presented itself again and Skyler was sent home in handcuffs with a police escort.

The education system doesn't appear to be working as it should for autistic students like Skyler.

But autistic students do well with the one-on-one support from a teacher's assistant.

As more of them receive the specific training needed to work with autistic children, the more immediate impact and benefit there will be for autistic students and for non-autistic students in the same classroom.

The kidshealth.org website says as many as one in 500 people has autism and it is four times more common in males than females. Not everyone with autism has the same symptoms.

It is vital for parents to feel they have the support of school teachers and administrators when their child's needs are not being met. It is also crucial that teachers, trained to work with autistic children or not, learn to recognize symptoms of the disorder and know how to manage situations that arise in the classroom.

In the meantime we sympathize with the Michaud family and hope Skyler eventually is able to return to school to finish his education.

We would also ask the government to outline as soon as possible its plan to fund this special training for teacher assistants and resource and methods teachers. Sphere: Related Content
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