Questioning a necessary Intervention

When it comes to intervention programs for children with autism, it seems that  people making decisions on the efficacy of these programs can be questionable.  In an article which appeared in LaPresse on Wednesday, January 15th, 2014, “Une méthode d’intervention nécessaire,” authors Claude Belley and Rose-Marie Charest comment on the positive comments made by Véronique Hivon, Minister for Social Services and Youth Protection in contrast to the negative comments of Dr. Chantal Caron, Psychiatrist at Hôpital Rivière-des-Prairies.

According to Véronique Hivon, there is a significant increase of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, creating a backlog on the waiting list for services.  This declaration from the minister shows that she has a realistic picture of the seriousness of the situation. One hopes that something will be done about the need for more services.

As the authors celebrate what the minister has declared, they are definitely not pleased with Dr. Caron.  She argues that 20 to 40 hours of Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) is ridiculous, and that there is little scientific evidence supporting the benefits of this intervention for children. I agree that 20 to 40 hours a week can be demanding for both child and parent, but to declare that it doesn’t help the child at all, well… 

Professionals working with these children find Dr. Caron’s position goes against best practices.  No one argues that we should aim for uniforming standards in Quebec, but questioning an intervention based on  a personal opinion and offering no solutions can influence parents not to opt for this type of service that has proven to be beneficial.  It makes people opt out or opt in without weighing the positive and the negative.  Maybe 20 hours is too much, but what about 15, 10 hours?

When I read an article like this one, I hear Jenny McCarthy all over again.  Using the Oprah Show as a platform to influence parents by claiming that vaccines are the cause of autism brought many parents to believe her and make the decision to not vaccinate their child even before knowing the scientific facts.  Fact is, there is NO CAUSAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THIMEROSAL-CONTAINING VACCINES AND AUTISM RATES IN CHILDREN!  But, Jenny McCarthy and her power of influence that comes with showbiz had a bigger impact on the belief system of people than scientific proof.

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Moving on to High School: Concerns and Factors to keep in Mind – A teacher’s Perspective

It’s no secret that students with exceptionalities transitioning from elementary school to high school face many challenges, but as a special education teacher in a high school setting, I found myself faced with several challenges of my own. The following are a few of my concerns.

Less parent involvement

Parent involvement is critical in making the transition to middle school a successful one.  It’s a fact that the more the parents are involved, the higher the grade average. It’s a balance act, parents have to be supportive, and allow them some freedom and autonomy.

Unrealistic parent expectations

Some parents ask the impossible from teachers and from their child.  I’ve had requests such as; can he/she stay with you instead of taking French class.  Meaning, no planning time, no breaks.  Other parents are convinced that their child will graduate at the same time as the other parents. This means, I am responsible if he/she doesn’t meet the requirements at the end of the year, and the child has added pressure from parents that she/he doesn’t need.

How to assess my students

Come report cards, I’m always faced with the same dilemma; how do I evaluate my student with special needs.  Having adapted most of the work, it seems an easy thing to adapt the report card, well… not so.  This is where most parents realize that their child is not following a regular program and must face difficult realities.

Coping with adolescent physical and emotional development

Ah yes, the teenage years.  As they enter high school, many students struggle with friendship, boyfriend/girlfriend issues, and everyday physical changes that have an impact on their behaviour.  Although teenagers are great to work with, some can be challenging at times.

Social immaturity

Just strolling down the school hallways, you see how different students behave even though they are sensibly in the same age group.  Take ten 15 year olds, and you get a variety of social skills varying from incredibly immature to the very mature. Students that have the ability to make friends and to be part of a peer group relates directly to middle school adjustment.  Students with good social skills plus stable and supportive friendship groups before the transition will make a smoother transition to their new school.

Inclusive Education vs Special Education

As I’m reading several research papers on inclusive education, I find the debate lives on.  Are special needs better in an inclusive setting or in a specialized school?  Although this is a very difficult question to answer, consider this question. “The question is not whether inclusive education is effective, but rather why it is not done well everywhere?”  Now, that’s something to think about.  Certainly there are schools that are successful at including students with special needs.  If we can study these schools, learn from these schools, it would greatly benefit the educational world.

Swimming lessons for Children with Special Needs

Swimming lessons for Children with Special Needs

Definitely an organization to take notice of.  This non-profit student initiative provides affordable one-on-one swimming lessons to children with specials needs. Cost per child is $20.00 for 9 lessons.  All swimming instructors are volunteers and  there is a fully certified lifeguard on the premises at all times.