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Advocating

Posted on: January 22, 2010

I’m looking into some information for my friend Robin on a situation that’s happening with her little sister.

Her little sister is 6 years old and in grade 1, in a regular classroom in Catholic school. She was diagnosed as (“severe”) Autism Disorder when she was a toddler, and in the past year, she was able to attend school regularly with an IEP and an EA (Educational Assistant, aka, a one-on-one aid). She got along well with that EA.

Sometime last year, the school was asking for more documentation of her diagnosis, even though the documentation that was provided the previous year was enough for her IEP. The school was needing the further documentation for her IEP, her EA and a special assistitive technology laptop.

The family got documentation from their family doctor and held meetings with the school, which resolved that particular issue.

However, this year, her sister no longer has the EA that she got along with so well, and has a new EA who doesn’t seem to be actually helping the sister. She and the EA do not get along, and it has gotten to the point that she does not want to go to school.
The school, now, wants her to go to a different school, because they do not want to provide her with further help to find a different EA.

As it is, Robin’s sister was working up to attending school full-time, but now her education plan as been completely disrupted. From what I can see, if the school gets its way, either Robin’s sister remains with her dysfunctional EA and descends into meltdown and behavioural problems, or else is forced to start again in a different school, which, as you know, can be traumatic.

Now, the question is, is the school allowed to do this, and what can the family do?

Does anyone with knowledge of Canadian education laws know anything that we can do about this?

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3 Responses to "Advocating"

We're in Ontario, and my kids are 14 now so we've been dealing with the school system for a while. It's very unlikely that legally they will be able to request a different aide (and have it granted) without documentation of abuse or incompetence. I'm assuming that they were able to get a full-time aide due to safety issues? Most school boards will not give 1-1 aides for any other reasons. If it's in her IEP then they will have to provide her with an aide, but unfortunately the family has no legal input on which aide it is. Unless there have been documented issues that show that the little girl is a real problem at the school (aggression, safety etc), it's unlikely that they can force the parents to put her in another school. However, they can and quite possibly will make it very unpleasant for them to stay at that school in hopes that the parents will make the transfer themselves. I would suggest getting the parents to contact Lindsay Moir (his webpage and contact info is at http://www3.sympatico.ca/l.moir/ and also contains links to other advocacy sites), or getting them to look at the "Ask Lindsay Moir" section of OACRS (http://www.oacrs.com/article.php?sid=10&did=2010-1) , as they can get a good idea of their rights from most of his answers. They should also contact the Special Education Superintendent from their board (there should be a link on their Board's webpage), as they may or may not be helpful- we've had different experiences with different Superintendents, but some of them are great and resolved situations that we thought were unsolvable. And make sure that they are documenting everything- every phone call, email, meeting etc. Get them to take an outside person to every meeting- it doesn't have to be an official advocate or lawyer (I've often used family friends), but having an extra person there on your side to listen is invaluable.

If it is a private school they can do whatever they want. They are not required to provide anything since they are not regulated by the government. If she was at a public school it would be a different matter.

Jen, you're not the first to recommend Lindsay Moir, and your advice has confirmed what others have said. Thank you very much. Stephanie, that's the question; not all Catholic schools are private. In Canada, private schools are those that you have to pay tuition for. If a school is getting government funding, then it's considered public and have to operate under government guidelines. For example, from what I can see, the school board is following the government policies, and from my own experiences (being that I was a student in the system), I didn't pay tuition. Therefore, it's very likely that the system is public. thanks though.

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