Father of Autistic Son Displeased With School

Jeremy Piper of Quispamsis says there’s nothing inclusive about an education system that restricts his nine-year-old autistic son Alex to 30 minutes of class time per day.

Piper says the Department of Education has failed to equip its teaching staff and schools to support students with special needs and he’s convinced the students are paying the price.  

“They don’t have the resources,” Piper said.

“They don’t have the training. They don’t have the experience. And they won’t make themselves get it.”

Piper was reacting to what he describes as his son’s suspension on Nov. 2 from Quispamsis Elementary School over a series of violent outbursts, including one that may have caused serious injury to Alex’s educational assistant.

“This is their solution — send him home, don’t deal with it.” …

Piper said that until this month, Alex had no history of violent outbursts and had been going to school full time, with very few issues.

Alex started kindergarten at Milltown Elementary School in St. Stephen, where he was enrolled until last year.

Last year, Piper transferred to the Sussex RCMP detachment but chose a home near Quispamsis Elementary School because he had heard it was one of the best.

Piper shares custody of his two sons with their mother, who also lives in the Kennebecasis Valley.

Piper said Alex’s first year at Quispamsis seemed to go OK.

Then, about six weeks ago, he started hearing vague and conflicting reports about Alex acting violently and outbursts in the classroom.

The most serious complaint seemed to involve Alex’s educational assistant.

“So the first call I got said that Alex pulled his EA by the hair to the ground and she cut her knee,” Piper said.

“Then in our meeting two weeks ago, [Paul Smith, director of schools] said Alex pulled her to the ground by her hair so violently that she dislocated her knee, or pulled something in her knee and she’s going to be out for a number of months.”

Piper said it’s a real concern and that’s why he’d like to see the documentation, but it hasn’t been provided.

“I don’t know if it’s as bad as they say, or whether it happened because they won’t show me anything.”

According to Piper, Alex, who is non-verbal, hasn’t received the resources he needs to manage his behaviour and make the most of his learning opportunities.

Educational assistants don’t get nearly enough training to deal with autism, he said.

And after about 18 months on the wait list, Piper said, Alex has yet to be assigned a speech therapist.

Piper said he purchased an iPad for his son and he also paid for the $340 software that enables Alex to communicate with images and icons, but in the last couple of weeks he noticed it was coming home fully charged.

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  • Alain

    Clearly someone in this family is a member of the teachers’ union. Putting handicapped children in the same class as normal children is a ridiculous idea, but one that has been put into practice. Of course the whole public education system itself is a disaster regardless of the province.

    • gareth

      There is nothing wrong with handicapped kids in regular classes as a principle, but there should be adequate help. Stop allowing elderly chain migration, funding ill-fated U.N. missions etc, and there would plenty of money to help Canadian families. I don’t really have a dog in this fight by the way, I just take issue with your false assertion. There were handicapped kids in my classes growing up and it was not a problem. It probably helps kids not to be assholes when they grow up. Teachers, class size etc make little difference. High IQ kids with married parrents will do fine. Handicapped kids are not the problem here.

      • Frances

        It depends very much if there is adequate help for the teacher. Even having a large number of students in “individual learning plan” (or whatever it’s called) category in a classroom can be a nightmare for the teacher. Each student has to have said plan documented in detail, so the teacher spends more time doing the paperwork than actually teaching. And heaven help the regular kids.

        • gareth

          Maybe so, and while I do think there are excellent teachers out there that really do have an impact, generally speaking they don’t make a huge difference on the academic/life success of any given child. Seeing as class time is only a few hours, there is other time to do it. As far as scheduling/time off goes, teachers have it pretty darn good.

          • Frances

            Agreed, Gareth, but I’m seeing teacher friends very frustrated at the amount of paperwork they have to complete – they’re beginning to think admin cares more about the paper than the students.

          • gareth

            I’m certainly not arguing in favour of paperwork. I’m arguing that it is good for regular and handicapped kids to be schooled together.

          • Frances

            I agree – so long as the learning of the regular kids is not compromised by their teacher having to give too much attention to the handicapped kids. After all, it is the normal kids who will – as adults – be expected to go forth and earn a decent living so they can pay the taxes that will support the handicapped.

        • This is the issue.

          Equality cannot mean that everyone IS the same but is treated with equal dignity and respect.

          Some children can be integrated but some cannot. This needs to be acknowledged on both sides. Also, the government has to steer clear of parents and let them decide and pay for necessary therapy (for autistic kids, it’s constant).

          Thanks to Wynne, this does not happen.

          • Frances

            Very much agree, Osumashi. The problem is when all the “problem” children are assembled in one class with these individual leaning plans which require 1) seriously much paper work by the teacher and 2) neglect of the regular students because all these ILP’s have to be shown to be implemented.

            Back in the day, there was a class headed by Mrs Rooney for the “handicapped” – including Down’s syndrome – at my local elementary school. It was a small community, so the kids in that class were also part of the community. No pretense that they should be part of the regular program.

            Also some years ago, heard a man from down East on Peter Gzowski discussing his disabled daughter’s integration – or lack thereof – into the school system. As I remember, this dad was totally realistic: there was a point where having his daughter in a “regular” classroom was beneficial neither to her or to her classmates. Given her limitations, he felt she and her classmates would be best served were she in a special class. As I also remember, his comment was that his daughter’s integration into society was better accomplished by having her in Girl Guides than in a regular classroom.

            To all those who seriously support classroom integration I have one query: how many of those with whom you would have other parents’ children be forced to study would you welcome into your workplace? If you’re not willing to have the adult version of these children work by you, then why should you force children in what is their workplace have to cope with problems?

          • Schools are puppy mills, not places of learning. When people get paid per student as opposed to the quality of teaching, the definition of the school changes.

            Again, some kids can be integrated and some cannot. EVERYONE needs to accept this, both parents and teachers. But the integration works both ways. A semi-functional student can be integrated with some work and kids who do not have disabilities can learn that such children exist and should be treated as members of society instead of people who are to be out of sight.

            My nephew has autism (I don’t like labelling kids but there one has it). He is a smart boy but non-communicative. His parents pay for separate therapy. In that therapy he does very well. That private school does wonders for him. At a regular school, they stick him in the back and he does nothing (this was alluded to in the article above). This runs the risk of undoing the work the therapists have done for him. Things are further complicated by the fact that Wynne steals money from such parents, treats them like crap and then ignores them.

            She is such a b!#ch.

      • Clausewitz

        Depends on the handicap. If the rest of the class loses out on learning opportunities because of disruption then nobody wins.

        • gareth

          I agree there are exceptions.

      • Millie_Woods

        Very few kids have a high IQ. Most of them require a structured learning environment with as few distractions as possible so they can *think*. Trying to teach 20 kids long division while 2 others are learning to tie their shoes isn’t fair to any of the students or the teacher. I have nothing against the handicapped but I have a problem with stupid politicians and bureaucrats carrying out ill-conceived social experiments at the expense of childrens’ education.

        • gareth

          Kids with normal IQs will perform about as expected as well. Life away from school matters too. Again, I grew up with a variety of handicapped kids in classes, and if little Jimmy can’t read maybe it’s because his parents never took the time to read to him. Sorry, but teachers aren’t a huge factor in the academic and life success of very many students. It’s great that it happens sometimes, but i think you are overstating the role of teachers, generally speaking. Kids can’t do math or English work out of books?

          • shasta

            With logic like that we should probably just do away with schools . Toss the kids a book and tell them to learn how to read it.

          • gareth

            No, that is a leap. One of the main functions of schools is for kids to learn to deal with their peers. Also, I said the role of teachers is overstated, not irrelevant.

          • gareth

            Do you believe if they shipped the world’s best teachers to Baltimore, SATs would double there?

          • shasta

            They would probably improve, but since SATs are testing ability, not knowledge I doubt they would double.

          • gareth

            If all else remained the same, I doubt it would improve much at all.

          • shasta

            So, we are back to doing away with public schools because they serve no useful purpose. I would actually support that, just not for the reasons that you seem to have.

          • gareth

            No, we aren’t back to that. We were never there.

      • The Deplorable Rosenmops

        Don’t forget handing out $10,000,000 to muslim goat f*ckers. Priorities!

      • Watchman

        Can society afford to pay for a full time assistant in the classroom in the cases of severely affected children? If this child is never going to fit in nor ever be usefully productive, then why should taxpayers continue to pour money and resources into an individual that might need up to four full time helpers to provide 24 hour care? Where does the responsibility of the parents end and must the state provide all the resources that the parents would like the child to receive?

        I wish I had the answers, I really do. There is a limit somewhere, but I’m not sure how that limit is decided.

        • gareth

          School is a few hours a day for about 195 days a year. No one said anything about hiring four caregivers per handicapped kid

          • Watchman

            My questions are broader, not just about this one child. For this one child though, should the taxpayers pay for a full time minder during school hours to help the student and protect others from this autistic student’s admitted violence? I have heard of parents giving up their jobs to sit in classrooms to help their children, for their children are their reason for life. When is a parent doing this the right thing to do?

          • gareth

            I dont know enough about this particular case, but I have argued that yes, taxpayers should pay for classroom assistants.

        • gareth

          When I was a kid we could afford it. The kids had helpers. We just need to prioritize better. And build things like pipelines to help pay.

          • Watchman

            How much time and attention do parents need to give to a severely disabled child if that child already has siblings? Do these siblings miss out on their lives because of this?

          • gareth

            So just send them off on an ice flow? At what level of disibility would you write off your neighbour’s kid?

          • Watchman

            I don’t know – truly that is why I ask.

          • gareth

            It is a matter of conscience.

          • Watchman

            Whose conscience and who gets to decide? Parents? Teachers? Faceless bureaucrats sitting in safe offices looking at wage costs? Ethicists? Politicians?

          • gareth

            Your opinion depends on your conscience. We live in a democracy, politics decides, for better or worse

          • Watchman

            But taxpayer money is involved and fellow students learning might be adversely affected. Someone decides – if the parents pay and care is taken to minimise disruption to the class then I do not get to say no but I don’t think this is the case here.

          • gareth

            Quite literally, the democratically elected government and the civil service draft laws and policy

          • gareth

            Send your kid to private school. Public schools exist to serve the public. All of it.

          • gareth

            Should class clowns also be put in handicap exile?

          • Watchman

            Sure. That’s why they are sent to the headmaster’s (ooh, sexist!) office to limit their disruption to the class’s learning.

          • gareth

            Not the same thing. That is temporary punishment. We are talking about access to public schools

          • Watchman

            If the disruptive behaviour continued, the student would be expelled if they could do so, or measures taken so that this student’s disruption doesn’t affect the other student’s learning. Much of the arguments about the autistic child is about classroom disruption too.

          • gareth

            From the start, I have acknowledged exceptions. The argument has always been whether it is a ridiculous idea to include handicapped kids in the general stream. I say it is not ridiculous, as a general rule.

          • gareth

            The kid in the story may not be suitable, that is not the argument here.

          • gareth

            The siblings of handicapped kids I’ve known have had great character

          • Watchman

            How much better could their lives have been without that sibling?

          • gareth

            How much worse?

          • Watchman

            Could be much worse – I have heard stories where siblings have received little attention from the parents struggling to care for a severely disabled sibling 24 hours a day. Is that fair? Do we just hope the sibling forgive their parents and hope that they will accept ‘character building’ as their benefit for their lack of attention?

          • gareth

            Sometimes life is tragic.

          • gareth

            Life isn’t fair, as a general rule.

          • shasta

            I don’t think anyone was suggesting writing any one with disabilities off, just saying that some kids should not be in the regular classroom, and that point is reached when they disrupt or impede the normal teaching that is going on, or they require constant individual attention.

          • gareth

            Yeah, some kids shouldn’t be. I’ve acknowledged that previously. My argument from the get go was that it is not a “ridiculous idea” to have handicapped kids in the classroom as Alain alleged.

          • shasta

            He was right in the sense that as it is practiced nowadays it is ridiculous. It is disrupting classes, and is holding back kids who could get much better results.

          • gareth

            I don’t believe that is true in most cases. There are major problems in education, but it is ridiculous to assert that the presence of a few handicapped kids is to blame. Handicapped kids didn’t implement “discovery math,” did they ?

          • shasta

            There are many “major problems” with education, but we discussing only one of them here. We would be here till next month if we tried to discuss them all.

          • gareth

            Show me some numbers to convince me handicapped kids are a major problem.

          • shasta

            I could not find numbers, but do a search for teachers assistant for Ontario and see all the job openings. I went through k-13 in Ontario and only ever had one adult in a class at a time (except for exams and inspections). The class sizes were generally larger also, except for a few senior high school classes.

          • gareth
    • Clausewitz

      You can thank McGuinty and Wynne for this brainstorm. Remember when McGuinty instituted the family health tax he also cut all funding for Autistic children above age 6. They were all dumped into public schools with no new training or resources. I’ve taught kids with Asperger’s over the years, and been pretty successful. However Mrs. Clause had three Autistic kids dumped into her class one year. No EA’s or support of any kind. She still refers to it as her year in hell. The worst part was that I doubt the rest of the students in that class were able to progress in their learning that year.

  • mauser 98

    Quispamsis…….careful how you say that in polite company

  • Millie_Woods

    The government needs to do something to fix this…….ha ha…just kidding. The government is in the business of fucking things up, not fixing them. Education is one of the things they’ve really botched.

  • barryjr

    Quick question, where is the money supposed to come from?

    • gareth

      Natural resource development primarily. Cut funding in other areas too. Slashing funding for humanities and social sciences at the university level across canada would easily cover the cost of providing help to handicapped kids

      • Watchman

        Short answer: “Taxpayers”

        • gareth

          Yes.