The UNB-CEL Autism program arose as a response to determined advocacy by parents of autistic children. The program provided NB`s autistic children and students with quality and integrity in the intervention and instruction they received. Former Premier Bernard Lord responded very personally, and very constructively, despite the at times combative nature or our advocacy, to our requests. His government looked for service providers that could provide the necessary early intervention services. Rather than import and pay huge fees to import services from Ontario a steering committee of various autism professionals, academics and parents involved with autism issues thought it would be a good idea to develop a program using local expertise. Premier Lord, and after him Premier Graham, agreed and UNB-CEL provided the autism training for the services our children needed.
Anne Higgins, a brilliant administrator who at that time was with the University of New Brunswick was a key part of the group that founded the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training program. She put a tight organizational plan together and implemented it with incredible efficiency. UNB Professor Emeritus (Psychology) and clinical psychologist Paul McDonnell and UNB Psychology professor Barb D'Entremont led the team at UNB that developed the content for the program. Private autism agencies were established and the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training program was used to train early autism intervention and clinical supervisors for New Brunswick's two official language groups.
New Brunswick parents of autistic children advocated for an extension of the UNB autism training to the school system with requests that teacher assistants and resource teachers working with students with autism also receive the UNB autism training. Both Premier Lord and Premier Graham, in direct discussions with representatives of New Brunswick's autism community, responded positively.
The training of early intervention and education personnel working with autistic children and students met with fierce resistance, some of it from career bureaucrats in the higher echelons of the Department of Education and some of it from New Brunswick's inaccurately characterized "inclusion" and "community" movement. Now with Minister Carr and NBACL inclusion icon Gordon Porter in charge of both early childhood development and schools the UNB-CEL autism training is no longer wanted. The foundation of our autism gains in recent years has been abandoned. My comments are gloomy but they reflect current realities under this administration.
I would like to end this comment on a positive note though by thanking all persons involved with the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training Program, particularly Anne Higgins, Paul McDonnell and Barb D`Entremont. I would also like to thank all the parents whose efforts in advocating for early intervention and education assistance for our autistic children led to the establishment of the UNB-CEL autism training. Without determined, focused autism parent advocacy there would have been no UNB-CEL autism program. Thank you all.