Tri-Cities parents with autistic children are vowing to keep the fight going after the school board turned down their request for what they see as a successful specialized education program.
On Tuesday, the district and board passed on a request from the Autism Support Group to consider supporting applied behavioural analysis (ABA) in SD43.
Essentially, ABA is described as the process of applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve social behaviours including reading, academics and communication.
The group made the presentation to the district in June and received a response last week. In its response, the board suggested an ABA program would have significant cost implications for the district and represent a departure from the practices in place for students with autism.
However, the request will be submitted to SD43's student achievement advisory committee.
But the response wasn't good enough for parents attending the board meeting.
Jodie Wickens, a spokesperson for the local Autism Support Group, said she was disappointed by the board's decision, and took exception to the idea that the ABA would cost the district more. She said an ABA program would not mean additional costs or staff, but instead mean the district would hire individuals who are trained in the program.
"There is a feeling of not being heard and quite frankly disrespected by an inaccurate response that didn't address many aspects of our original presentation," Wickens said.
An ABA program has been approved in the Surrey school district.
She also noted many parents using ABA are already paying for the program in their home care. Wickens, who has a child in the district with autism, said she's spent $50,000 in the last four years on her child on a home program.
She also contends many parents have doubts about the district's own program, the Coquitlam Autism Spectrum Team (CAST). Parents have had "negative experiences" with CAST, she said, suggesting the workers are doing things in opposition of the home teams.
Though the Tri-Cities mother didn't expect the district to completely implement an ABA program, she was hoping for more collaboration.
"Parents have to be involved in the process of educating their children, especially when their children have extra needs," Wickens said. "We were asking for that conversation to be opened up." During a question period in the meeting, assistant superintendent Reno Ciolfi defended the district's current approach, noting a lot of individuals have provided input into the program. He added SD43 needs to be fair to the people who have contributed.
Ciolfi also said the teachers in CAST are well-educated, noting the district has a 76 per cent completion rate for special needs students, which is higher than the B.C. average of 56 per cent.
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