KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Here in Nova Scotia, the Commission on Inclusive Education released its final report, “Students First” last March. While it’s not perfect, it’s certainly very well-done, and the commission definitely consulted with the relevant stakeholders. For the most part.
However, it’s blatantly obvious that the government is dragging its feet on implementing the recommendations of the inclusion report.
In no small part this is because they’ve been excitedly focused on implementing the recommendations of the exceedingly flawed Glaze report “Raising the Bar“. (See Grant Frost’s thoughtful commentary for everything wrong with the Glaze report. He’s written extensively about this on his blog frostededucation.com)
I could go on about all the various recommendations in each report, but I’ll let you read them yourself.
Today I want to discuss something that I think is getting lost in all this.
When it comes to inclusive education, it is a well-known fact that EPAs and other school support staff do not have anything close to adequate training to provide support for autistic kids.
I couldn’t agree more.
But there’s an idea that I’m not sure a lot of school support staff have considered much. Certainly not our government.
And that is…..
…..Why not listen to actually autistic people?
Radical concept, I know!
And I don’t just mean listening to the personal anecdotes of numerous autistic activists who’ve been writing for years. There are training modules developed by actually autistic people that could give EPAs and support workers a whole new perspective.
I’ve written about one such module before. And I will continue to promote it relentlessly.
I am referring to.Foundations for Divergent Minds. You can check them out at www.divergentminds.org
I actually wrote to the Education Minister, Zach Churchill, before Christmas, to tell him about it. Ordinarily, I’d write to the local school board, but that simply isn’t possible.
You see, one of the recommendations of the Glaze Report was that school boards be abolished, and they very quickly were. They’ve been replaced by “regional education centres” which are fully beholden to the minister’s whims. So writing to the minister was the only option.
And do you think I got a response?
I’ll let you figure that out.
FDM is, in my very educated opinion, the best resource for EPAs, respite workers, and everyone who provides support to autistic and other neurodivergent children.
They also have training courses available, which are very affordable. Payment plans and scholarships are available, as are customized training packages.
Another useful training course is “AAC Coaching for Parents and Caregivers”, taught by Artful Expressions Speech Therapy and Voice Training. This is not created by autistic people, but Artful Expressions is one of the best SLP places I’ve ever come across. Find it here: https://artful-expressions-center-for-communication.teachab…
The point is, EPAs have excellent resources, created by the real experts on autism, to support autistic students. They just have to look for them. As does our government.
Most importantly, they need to be willing to listen to autistic people. Because as I, and many of my fellow activists have repeatedly said, we are the real experts.
Thankfully, there are a few MLAs who seem to be willing to listen. I’ve met with a few.
I’ll leave the last word to Cynthia Bruce, an instructor at Acadia University and disability rights activist:
“In 2019, @nseducation must commit to serious consultation with#DisabledScholars who have lived and professional expertise to help us map a path to #RealInclusion in Nova Scotia schools.#NothingAboutUsWithoutUs means listening to and acting on our knowledge about inclusion.”
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