N.S. family concerned about lack of supports for son with non-verbal autism
Published Thursday, May 17, 2018 12:50PM ADT
A Nova Scotia family is rethinking plans of sending their son to school after learning he may not have the supports he needs in the classroom.
Jade Williams knew something was wrong when Briem still wasn’t talking at the age of two. Concerned, she took him to the IWK Health Centre. Almost three years later, he was finally diagnosed with non-verbal autism.
Briem may never be able to hold a conversation or even communicate verbally. Now four years old, Brien is supposed to start school this September, but Williams says that may not be possible, even though the school is practically next door to the family’s home in Mount Uniacke, N.S.
“As far as supports that are in schools, there’s nothing,” says Williams. “I would not be able to drop him off and hope that he gets to his class, or hope that he doesn’t run out the door into traffic. I can’t do that … so if I’m dropping my son off, I’m hoping for the best, is what I was told.”
Williams says they have been told Briem would need a full-time aid, but it’s unclear as to whether that’s an option at this time. If one isn’t available, Williams says they will have to keep him home from school.
“We need to facilitate this,” she says. “All children have the right to learn.”
Her words come at a time when the Nova Scotia Education Department has accepted a report on improving inclusive education in the province.
Earlier this month, the province announced it would be hiring more than 190 specialized education professionals, including 60 educational assistants, 40 child and youth care practitioners, and 15 autism teacher specialists, in an effort to boost resources for increasingly complex classrooms.
Nova Scotia Education Minister Zach Churchill acknowledges the system isn’t providing for everyone’s needs right now, but he says things are changing.
“These are to support our kids in the classroom in smaller groups and to help with those one-on-one interventions when necessary,” says Churchill. “People will see a lot more supports next year that didn’t previously exist.”
However, it’s unknown whether the additional supports will make a different for Briem.
Williams says she needs support for her son both in and out of the classroom, and she’s speaking out to ensure he has a chance.
For now, she says she’s paying out of pocket for some of his therapies, and is left wondering whether he will be able to attend school.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Laura Brown