Dear Mr. Premier,
This email is written to you in the hopes of getting your attention to the problems faced by parents with children on the Autism Spectrum. I ask that you read this email with an open mind, and recognize that I am not merely criticizing the school system, but desperately seeking some change. My son Dayton's diagnoses are as follows: Global Delays, ADHD and PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified, a very, very high functioning form of Autism).
First, I would like to say that I am very pleased that the government does not shun our children into a "special school" where the building is considered more of a dumping ground for the inept children. I am glad that in the government's eyes, my son is entitled to the same education as anyone else. I love the "theory" of inclusion.
My concern is that not all schools are equipped or skilled to follow through with "genuine inclusion.' Most of my son's inclusion has proven to be "cosmetic inclusion." Dayton spends the majority of his time in the hallway. The school he is currently attending claims that this is by his choice, not the school's, but it appears they have no control of my son or his behavior. If they did, he would genuinely be included in the classroom. I think the problem stems in their misunderstanding of the Autism Spectrum. Please don't take my opinion as though I'm suggesting that the school Dayton attends is not working hard with Dayton, but they are not skilled or knowledgeable in teaching or including a child with autism. The Autism Spectrum is a very, very broad spectrum. If you've had the pleasure of meeting a child with autism, you've met a child with autism. Not one child is the same. What works for one child, will not necessarily work for another.
The most common thread of these children is their inappropriate behavior due to their inability to control impulse and their inability to cope with emotions and sensory issues. I have moved through three different school division to get Dayton the education both you and I believe he is entitled to. Dayton's current school thinks that at the core of Dayton's inappropriate behavior is my parenting. They have called CFS about my parenting twice in the last year. I can not begin to explain the humiliation of this experience. Furthermore, they did not believe that Dayton's diagnosis of PDD-NOS falls under the Autism Spectrum, which has resulted in them "disciplining" Dayton in the way that makes sense to with a typical child. Sometimes even worse... An extreme example of their discipline was when they had four teachers force my son to the floor, all of them laying on top of him over a misunderstanding because of a torn back pack, at eight years old, weighing fifty pounds... This resulted in my loss of daycare, forcing me to work part time. The incident traumatized my child into hiding under his bed for a few days, not being able to eat because of a sore throat due to his screaming at the school staff to let him go. Suspending a seven, eight or nine year old child who is delayed by two years is not teaching him a consequence, it is a punishment to the parents. My son is now looking for ways to get suspended, as to him it means that he doesn't have to show his peers just how far behind is from the rest of them. The suspensions have been a "reward" for him. In his mind it is better to be seen as "bad" then "stupid" in front of his peers. Dayton's self esteem is at an all time low, as he constantly tells me he is stupid, he can not learn, so what's the point of me trying to help him at home...
The last CFS call resulted in them immediately closing the file, and asking me what they could do for me. I wanted an advocate from the system to advocate on my son's behalf in his school. They provided me with Brenda Suderman, an amazing woman, who is fighting for my family. She is a true advocate, and very much a support to my family. I have humbled myself and allowed a worker to come to my home to give me advice on working with my son once a week, but even the worker is telling me that I am doing everything with Dayton that she would recommend herself.
On calling your office, my call was transferred to my MLA, whom I had already spoken to. The MLA's office promised to contact Manitoba Education with my concerns, and assured me that someone would call me to discuss my concerns further.
Marlene Gregory of the Manitoba Education "student services," suggested that I fill out a "school of choice application form" and have it submitted by May 15th, giving me false hope for my son's future education. It turns out that school divisions do not accept this application if the student it is being filled out for has special needs! Even if there was a chance I was able to move to their school division (rental availability in the city is sitting at 0%, furthermore, my child with autism needs stability, and I've moved from school division to school division three times to get him a "promised education"), I can not get my child into an autism program or an adaptive program because they are all full. When I called Mrs. Gregory back and conveyed my results, she informed me that the school divisions have the right to deny the application... I have every reason to believe by Dayton's child psychiatrist who diagnosed Dayton with PDD-NOS, that he can live a productive life, become a contributing member of society, providing he gets the services and support his current school division is not providing him.
Mr. Premier, I ask for an appointment to see you, and discuss my son's education. This is not only a concern for my son, but for all children who have been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. One in a hundred and ten children are being diagnosed with a form of Autism Spectrum Disorder today and the numbers increase every year. These children are our future and they need your help. Help them... You can make a difference in these children's lives, if you want to, and I know you do. You are a wise man, if you weren't, you would not be the premier of Manitoba. Imagine our future if these children do not receive your help... You are our leader, our voice of reason. I know that as a parent alone, I can not make a change, but you... You can make all the difference to our children's lives and education.
The stress I have endured as a result of Dayton's discrimination has taken a toll on my health. I am currently on medical leave, and am available at your earliest convenience to meet with you.
You may reach me at home at 837-6308 or by cell phone at 771-4546. My email addresses are firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. I look forward to your call.
Lou Lovrin, a mom of a beautiful nine year old boy, who desperately seeks your help.