A New Brunswick mother says she’s worried about what the future has in store for her 10-year-old daughter, who lives with autism, if she doesn’t get the help she needs.
“I’m worried I’m going to lose her if she doesn’t get this,” says Chantelle Woodall.
“I do want her to be in inclusive education, but the reality is sometimes its maybe not safe for that to be the situation.”
Woodall’s daughter Lillian lives with a severe case of autism that causes her to harm herself and others, often leading to scratching and biting. On at least one occasion, educational assistants at John Caldwell School have been sent home from work because of the episodes.
There’s one thing that Woodall says will help: behavior intervention.
“I feel like I’m kind of fighting for the behavior intervention that she needs in order to learn different coping skills to not hurt people and to not hurt the people that she works with,” says Woodall. “You know, to not hurt other children at the school potentially, that’s my biggest fear.”
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It essentially would teach Lilly coping mechanisms and lay out a path forward that doesn’t include such behaviour.
The 10-year-old’s doctor is one of her advocates, diagnosing her with not just severe autism spectrum disorder, but a learning disability as well.
In a letter to educators that was obtained by Global News, Dr Andrew Kennedy points out that she “has not been doing well and has not been progressing or improving in most measures,” adding “… most would agree that the current plan of therapy, education and behavioral interventions are ineffective and wholly inadequate.”
If Woodall were to hire a behavioral interventionist, it would cost $3,000 a month.
“We have a duty to provide those supports if we’re going to be an inclusive education system,” explains Liberal critic Chuck Chiasson.
“There are one offs that are more serious and there are one offs that need a one off type of intervention, and I don’t feel that the Department of Education is seeing it as such.”
The province says it’s taken steps to ensure there are autism specialists throughout the system.
“In many cases we’re seeing a pretty significant spike in the number of reported diagnosed cases of autism inside the school system and that flows into every recent burden,” says Education Minister Dominic Cardy. “We’ve talked about about the shortage of whether its school physiologists or other mental health professionals people to help in those areas we certainly have a ways to go.”
But Woodall believes her daughter needs more. She’s applying for a complex case designation which would open up funding, but the process could take more than a year to complete.