Yesterday I commented that the Graham government's throne speech contained good news for students with autism because the speech contained a commitment to autism specific training for TA's. Opposition leader Shawn Graham had committed during the campaign to training 100 TA's and Resource teachers per year for the next 4 years via the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training program. This morning's Telegraph Journal APPEARED to indicate a major watering down of that commitment though indicating in a story carried on page A3 , that Education Minister Lamrock was committing to 100 TA's over the course of his government's mandate. The Minister also appeared to be wavering over whether the training would be done by the UNB-CEL folks, widely respected by the NB Autism Community and across Canada or on the cheap by Department of Education civil servants. The difference is substantial.
- Telegraph Journal, February 7, 2007, Joshua Errett Minister promises 100 autism support workers in schools
There are literally hundreds of students with autism in New Brunswick schools. Many are effectively excluded from receiving a real education because they do not have the autism trained personnel working with them to assist their learning by specialized methodologies such as Applied Behavior Analysis. They have been betrayed by New Brunswick politicians before. In the past an interdepartmental (Education, Family Services, Health) committee (the IDC) was established to examine autism services in New Brunswick. The IDC took almost two years to conclude that autism specific services were virtually non-existent. It issued a report and recommendations which sat unread by the lead Minister on the IDC, for almost a full year and most of its recommendations were never fulfilled and are now seriously outdated. Autistic children do not need any more political betrayals. Hopefully, the new Liberal government is not about to water down its commitment to a fraction of what Mr. Graham promised.
On May 4, 2004 a Fredericton Liberal MLA stood in front of the Centennial Building with protesting parents of autistic school children and said "" We can do better. We know the options,... "We know that ABA treatment works. Premier Bernard Lord says he has to make tough choices? I say he made bad choices and cut taxes. If you can get up every day and deal with this, you deserve the Liberals' support."
- Daily Gleaner, May 4, 2004, Joel Kane, Parents march to protest tight funding for autism
I hope that Education Minister Lamrock remembers his words from May 4, 2004, remembers Mr. Grahams campaign commitment and honors that commitment fully.