Education Minister Thompson announced an extended deadline of this funding for any student with autism that registers between April 1 and June. Each child will be allocated reduced funding of $12,300 due to the current budget deficit. Normally, the $ 12,700 per student funding is available to boards for all students who are currently enrolled. It is unfortunate that the budget deficit should impact this vulnerable population.
The four-point plan that is introduced seems to put an emphasis on supporting our educators. The Minister announced the figure of 2200 employees of public and Catholic schools to be retrained starting this fall through additional qualification courses. Ontario has 4850 schools, i.e. each school will have 0.45 trained teachers. This proposal raises more questions than answers: is providing teachers a one-day (2-day? week?) course sufficient to replace the years of training that professional autism therapists undertake? Teachers should not be asked to replace the work that ABA therapists, BCBAs and psychologists should be doing. Working with children with autism requires extensive knowledge and training on the principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), dedication and resources. A teacher in a classroom with 25-30 other children, simply does not have sufficient training, knowledge, resources and the support required to support the individualized needs of children with ASD. How many BCBAs or psychologists can Ontario schools hire considering the budget deficits? 1-2 in the district? How often will they be able to oversee a child and provide recommendations to school staff? Perhaps 1-2 times a year?
The Minister also proclaimed that an after-school skills development pilot project for students with autism will be expanded to the 72 school boards. This could be interpreted as follows: we will take your children for 2-3 extra hours after school, just close your mouth and do not demand money for ABA therapy.
The fourth pillar proposed involved “Virtual communication between parents and teachers”, which currently exists in many schools. Platforms like ClassDoJo are widespread and there is nothing new in their introduction.