Many of you have been asking about accessibility in regard to education, so we wanted to support you. If you haven’t already read the first Autism Advocacy Back-to-School blog I wrote during the summer of 2020, you can check it out here.
Included in this blog, you will find an email template to help with your journey of autism advocacy.
I honestly thought that we had made it through the school system relatively unscathed. Ahhh…so naïve, I was!
Enter a new school and COVID-19
We had approached our school about starting with a gradual schedule as he hadn’t attended in-person classes since the spring, and we wanted him to be successful. We agreed on two hours a week to start with a gradual increase over time. Two weeks after school began, we had a follow-up meeting. I was excited to hear about his increased schedule. I was not expecting the school to suggest his time be reduced.
Enter the Mama Bear in me
Throughout the meeting, I repeatedly said “we respectfully decline that option.” I was polite but firm and asked for reasons for their request. I’m fortunate because I do have knowledge about education advocacy; however, I still felt overwhelmed and somewhat confused during the meeting.
After the meeting, I followed up immediately with an email summarizing the discussion and asking for a response by a certain date. I’m happy to report that things are progressing (albeit slower than we would like), but we are going in the right direction.
Here are a few things I’ve learned about autism advocacy over the years, as well as some additional information I learned at the BCEd Access conference:
Give a deadline for the school to respond, remember there are lots of students with additional needs, be reasonable in your expectations (I would say three business days is fair).
Make sure to thank the school for their time and the discussion.
Be polite yet firm.
Outline what you expect for your child, what is in their best interest, and quote reputable sources (see below for some ideas).
Respect the fact that maybe your child can’t attend full time without it impacting their physical, mental and emotional health. Do what is best for your child.
Offer suggestions. You know your child the best!
If your child is being excluded (e.g., not able to attend field trips, not attending school full time, phone calls to pick them up early for behavioural reasons) be sure to fill out the BCEd Access Exclusion Tracker.
Don’t sign anything until you are satisfied.
Some references that I’ve found useful during our quest for education:
UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities—Article 24—Inclusive Education
Prohibits discrimination against children with disabilities and mandates the right to an inclusive education. Focused on removing barriers to participation in typical classrooms in public schools. Countries are specifically charged with obligation to ensure access to inclusive general education with non-disabled peers. The Parliament of Canada and each Canadian province have ratified the convention and the optional protocols.