While you have been able to have total control over your child’s ABA program at home, it is quite a different matter in the school system, public or private. Most children with autism will receive support from an Education Assistant (EA), but there is no guarantee that the EA will be dedicated to your child, will be trained in ABA or that the school will allow the consultant to be closely involved in educational training and programming.
Autism Funding is reduced at age 6 because it is assumed that the child will get supports in school. However, school supports are often minimal and ineffective due to lack of training in behaviour treatment.
Schools generally do not have teachers, EAs or Special Education teachers who have knowledge or experience in ABA beyond a one or two hour presentation during their training. For this reason it is very important for a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst (BCBA) to be able to determine the skills required for the child to be meaningfully involved in a classroom and to be able to design programs that will facilitate the learning of these skills.
A few districts have their own BCBA but if your child has a home program, it’s much better for the home BCBA to work in the school as well. District BCBAs, when available, can be helpful for a child who does not have a home program.
If you feel that your child’s schooling can be improved, it will be up to you to come up with solutions. Watch the ABA in Schools video to understand what those solutions might look like and continue reading to learn about advocating in the schools system.
It is important that parents know about important legal precedents and know what rights they and their children have in the school system. You have the right to meaningful consultation on your child’s education and you have the right to expect the teacher or EA to have Instructional Control over your child (Hewko).
Your child has the right to the necessary accommodations that would help him or her reach their own personal potential (Moore). Click on these documents to learn more and watch the ASN’s Advocacy Video.
The best case scenario would simply be to remind the school district of their obligations. The worst case scenario would involve hiring a lawyer to force them to do what they should have done in the first place. Here is a roadmap to help you get what your child needs.
It’s very important that you document every communication with the school or school district. Every phone call should be logged, noting who you spoke to and the subject. Emails should be saved and copies made of every letter sent or received. If you have a meeting with school staff, follow up with a summary in writing of what you understood to be said in the meeting and email it to anyone in that meeting.
Start with the teacher and work your way up to the School Board, setting deadlines with each correspondence.
Each school district has written policies and procedures on how to deal with problems and challenging decisions. Although policies may have different names, when you disagree with a decision in regards to your child’s education the procedure is to move up to the next level of authority in your school district. You must appeal to each person who is responsible for your child’s education in this order before you move to the next level.
- Clearly state what you are requesting. Then, why it is important. Give examples of how it can be achieved (how it’s done at home, or how other students elsewhere do it). Use Hewko language (instructional control, meaningful consultation).
- Pick your battles.
- Always be prepared for meetings. Practice ahead of time. Stay on message.
- Bring a trusted person with you to meetings to take notes or help stay on target..
∙ Take meeting minutes if IEP’s, teacher meetings, meetings with principal or resource teacher
∙ Email the minutes within a week of the meeting
∙ Make a written account of conversations and email them to interested parties asking for clarification
“I request that we have a meeting set up for next week, if I do not hear back with a response by Friday November 29th I will consider that a denial of this request.”
Be willing to escalate in a timely manner if your child’s needs are not being met
∙ All school boards must have appeal procedures to help resolve disputes. The ministry expects that the appeal procedures will be based on principles of administrative fairness, which include the right of students and parents/guardians: to be heard by the school board; to be consulted in decisions affecting them; and to an impartial school board decision based on relevant information.
∙ A “section 11” is a mechanism to ask the school board of trustees to override a decision by a school employee. Thus it is important to have in writing, who made the decision you disagree with and what you want instead.
∙ In addition, the School Act provides for an appeal to the Ministry Superintendent of Achievement in certain circumstances.
∙ All districts should have their appeals procedure published on their website.
One parent left Coquitlam and moved to Surrey so that her child could access ABA. They took the Coquitlam School district to the Human Rights Tribunal and won. Later, another parent won the right to keep her childs effective EA instead of having to go through a bumping process that would have destabilized her daughter’s education. HRT seems to be a more effective tool than a Section 11. Both can be done without a lawyer, but can be more effective with a lawyer. Threatening to do either a HRT or Section 11, can affect a better decision for your child. If you wish to pursue a Human Rights Tribunal ask for help on our Autism Support Network Closed parent group on Facebook.
Be prepared to take the next step! Many parents do access quality education and appropriate support for their children in school and usually with a large amount of advocacy and quite often a lawyer! Remember that the Hewko and Moore parents spent thousands of hours – years of their lives – achieving legal precedent – parents need to be prepared to use it!
Whether or not your child currently has an ideal school situation, you should advocate for systemic change so that your child will have fewer barriers to learning but also so that other children have access to a quality education. In 2006, after years of school board presentations and letter writing, the Surrey School District collaborated with autism parents to design the ABA Support Worker program.
Thanks to parent advocacy, other districts have begun to hire ABA trained Educational Assistants and accept the expertise of Behaviour Consultants. Advocacy is still needed in many districts to improve BCBAs access to children’s classrooms so they can facilitate a home-school Collaboration.
You can start the process of advocating in your district by finding other parents in your district through the ASN Parent Facebook Group.
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