The Public Schools Branch has agreed to meet with a Head of Montague mother whose son no longer has access to an Education Assistant (EA). Her six-year old has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
In an emailed statement to The Graphic, a spokesperson from the Department of Education said they “can’t speak publicly about individual cases” but they could confirm “the Public Schools Branch has been in contact with a Montague family about EA supports and the PSB will be working directly with the family to resolve the issue.”
Lindsey Shepard’s son is a Grade 1 student at Montague Consolidated School.
She said there is not enough support for her son in school. Before the Christmas break, he had access to an education assistant (EA) as well as a program called Fundations, a short class with a smaller group size, which he excelled in. There are 16 children in his regular Grade 1 class.
Mrs Shepard said her son no longer has not has access to either of these resources.
She expressed her concerns in an email to Education Minister Brad Trivers, Premier Dennis King, Deputy Premier Darlene Compton and Student Services Director Terri MacAdam, from the Public Schools Branch. She also shared the email on Facebook.
Mrs Shepard recounts a typical day: “At 6:30 am we wake up. Everyone is dressed close to 7 am. At 7 am, give or take a couple of minutes, my youngest child takes his ADHD medication. By 7:40 am they are on the bus ready to start their school day.
Once he arrives at school, medication has finally kicked in, he goes to his classroom to begin his day as a first grader. Now the fun begins. He has to sit down and learn.
He does story time and learns new and exciting things, or maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he noticed one tile on the floor was slightly darker than the others. Now he needs to fix this. This isn’t right. He can’t sit there and look at the tile, but he can’t move somewhere else because that tile is still there. It’s telling him he needs to pay attention to it more than anything. He has missed his teacher calling his name for the third time because he has completely devoted his focus to that tile.
Finally his attention gets drawn back to his teacher. He is learning. He is thriving in this new concept. So let’s try it out. He sits at his desk and starts writing, but the letters look sloppy and he can’t have it be anything less than perfect. So he erases it and starts again. Finally it looks perfect. But wait, why is the teacher telling the class it’s time to move to another task? He hasn’t finished his first task. He looks around and everyone is moving on. That isn’t right. So he gives his focus back to his writing.
The teacher has now explained they need to move on to numbers. He is frustrated because he didn’t get to finish his writing. He has three words written of a two sentence assignment.
The rest of his day will play out much the same with him falling behind in his written work because he needs it to be just so.”
“He was participating in it (Fundations) but again that stopped around Christmas and he hasn’t gone back. They haven’t given me an explanation why,” she said.
Mrs Shepard said when her son did have an EA the process fell short of what he needs in the classroom.
“From what I could ascertain from the school and his teacher was that 15 minutes a day is spent taking him to his 15-minute appointment for speech therapy. The EA is basically shuttling him back and forth,” Ms Shepard said.
Losing access to these resources has had a negative effect on the boy.
Mrs Shepard said recently she has had to go to her family doctor and have her son’s ADHD medication adjusted because “he feels like he can’t focus.”
“Because his ADHD is being handled with medication, his autism is coming out more. He’s showing more autistic traits than before,” she said.
“He was just this really high energy kid who didn’t dwell on a lot of these smaller things that he is now.”
The province has spent $1.2 million to add 42 new EAs to its complement of youth worker and EA complement, the email stated.
“The department assesses schools each year based on students entering and leaving and allocates resources to the school based on its need. The department said “no school has been denied an increase as part of this process.”