Open letter to Minister Fassbender re: recent announcement to make $150,000.00 available to 120 international students for scholarships.

An Open Letter to the Honorable Peter Fassbender, BC Minister of Education,

Dear Sir,

We, the members of BC Parents of Special Needs Children: Action for Equitable Access, were greatly disappointed to learn of your recent announcement to make $150,000.00 available to 120 international students for scholarships.

Our members are personally aware of the growing unmet needs of students with special needs currently attending BC public schools. We are passing along 120 suggestions, including a few from us, our children’s aunts, uncles, grandparents, and siblings about how those precious BC education dollars would be better spent. One suggestion for every scholarship offered.

Our families are in a key position to make these suggestions…. like Karen, who offers that an increase in support staff hours would allow her son to be in school for the entire day instead of him having to go home at lunch because there’s no support. Christina’s suggests the money should pay for psycho-educational assessments for both her children who are on waitlists. Then there’s Melanie’s suggestion to arrange for more SEA time so her daughter and other special needs classmate aren’t left to play video games all day as they do now. Natalie would have the funds pay for support staff for recess, field trips, special events – so no child would be left behind. Shon would like a little of that money to be spent on a class set of iPads so his non-verbal son can have peers that are able to communicate the same way he does – and they could help him learn that his voice matters even if it comes through an AAC device.

The rest of our 120 suggestions follow.
Sincerely,
BC Parents of Special Needs Children
Action for Equitable Access

120 Suggestions:

Clair would purchase classroom sound-field systems, basically Public Address (PA) systems with the inclusion of a wireless microphone for students with auditory processing disorders.

Christine would lower her child’s class size to give him more 1:1 time with the teacher.

Niki would hire more resource support staff because three students with one helper is inadequate.

Ben would pay for lunch and recess coverage of breaks for EAs so the kids who need it can have some “big movement” time with the rest of the kids.

Sister Emma wants to see her twin brother back in her school, and NOT forced into an alternate learning program (private therapy Center). Out of the mouths of babes.

Shannon would pay for at least one Snoezelin room in every district.

Tina would ensure there were an adequate number of EA’s in her daughter’s school.

Amy would hire more support for kids in the school (SEA, gifted, reading etc).

Val would fast tracking earthquake upgrade, buy text books, fix asbestos filled classrooms, school infrastructure, add water fountains, provide kids breakfast programs, and add helpers in classrooms.

Shirley would spend money on accessibility; e.g, ramps or wheelchair accessible washrooms where needed…and they are sadly still needed..

Heidi would provide students who are not successfully sharing an SEA, like her son, the option of having their own part time SEA.

Chantelle would put the money towards hiring more speech therapists and a social languages group for the many, many children who are highly intelligent but have social communication disorder so that they may be more able to function in the community and workplace in the future.

Chelsea would give the money to parent support groups who look after families whose children are suffering from a lack of resources in school.

Grandpa Bruce would like to see that money put towards more field trips that inlcuded special needs kids for more hands on learning.

Grandma Maria wants to see the money used for breakfast programs at the schools so that all children have access to fresh breakfasts to start their learning day off right.

Carmen would use the funds to hire someone to give her son the one-on-one attention that he needs in order to attend daycare.

Jack would use the funds to hire a full-time therapist at school to help his brother with social interactions so that he could find even just one friend.

Karen would increase SEA hours so that her son had support through the entire day instead of him having to go home at lunch due to lack of support

Cathie would hire a forensic accountant to make sure districts are not disproportionately cutting more services to students with special needs than typical students as she knows that’s a human rights issue and suspects it occurs far too often.

Sonia would provide her child with full-time EA to ensure that his needs are met because, due to cutbacks, he has to make do.

Mike would pay for more autism specific training with the EAs who support Autistic kids.

Greg would use those funds to hire an appropriately trained tutor (not an SEA) to work one on one with his son in the classroom because he has significant learning disabilities and requires a specialized program in order to meet his potential.

Nancy would pay so that there to be enough EA support in her daughter’s classroom on the first day of school in September.

Cathy would pay for independent psych- eds, remediation, a specialist teacher, and an IPad for one child.

Joanne would use some of the money in getting more psychological testing done for kids. Instead of only a few a year.

Christina would get the OT services her son needs and a psych assessment for both her children who are on waitlists.

Julie would subsidize the costs many PACs have providing breakfast and lunch programs — $10,000 to 15 school districts could go a long way. When we have one of the highest child poverty rates in the country, it is a slap in the face to these children to provide scholarships to international students.

Shannon would increase EA hours and increase accessability to SLP, OT, Psych-Ed and a qualified instructor to increase Social Skills.

Anne would reduce class sizes and special education teacher caseloads.

Patricia would purchase books for classrooms, instead of relying on teachers’ personal collections and corporate sponsorships with publishing companies.

Cora (sister) would like to use the money to fund additional EA’s and classroom supports so that every student in the public system can get the education they are entitled to.

Gale would spend the money on scholarships for students with disabilities.

Max’s grandmas and grandpas who’ve had to help pay tuition money for him to attend a private school for kids with learning disabilities would like to see that money used to provide the equivalent support in public schools.

Amanda would make sure the KINDERGARTENERS at my school could have an actual playground with just ONE of those scholarships…

Stina would add more EA’s so kids with special needs actually get the help they need and can flourish rather than flounder or just get by.

Auntie Nicole who is an EA in Montreal would like to see that money put towards more psych-eds done in a timely manner so that children’s needs could be properly identified and focused on. That way the child has a much higher likelihood of being successful, confident, productive, contributor to our society’s future.

Andrea would fund necessary in-service training for EAs working with her autistic children.

David would use those funds to provide psych-ed assessments for struggling learners so that their needs can be identified and met.

Dale would pay for the Gemini program.

June would pay for training ion phonological awareness for primary school teachers.

Grandma Kathi would like to see the money used to provide bus transportation in all school districts to enable kids to access education. The lack of district accountability of transporting kids, either to school, home or even field trips, is scary!

Roberto would pay to have more consistency between schools in staff training and understanding/acceptance of children with special needs.

Jose would pay for training for teachers in…sensitivity/empathy training, anti bullying tactics, cyber bullying, teaching & understanding special needs, stress management. Would like schools to all have urban veggie gardens and fruit trees so they can learn how to grow food, connect with the land

Step-mom Robyn wants to see the same support systems in rural districts as are offered and available in urban districts. The funding for such things is incredibly lopsided and not currently based on individual need!

Claire would provide teacher with physical tools to enhance teaching of executive function skills. Executive functions consist of several mental skills that help the brain organize and act on information. These skills enable people to plan, organize, remember things, prioritize, pay attention and get started on tasks. They also help people use information and experiences from the past to solve current problems.

Elaine would spend the money on phonics programs.

Sonia would pay for items like designing or buying pre-existing software for children in French Immersion, instead of forcing the children out of the program.

Kelly would organize and provide 50 workshops for parents.

Uncle Scott would like to see that money go towards phys ed classes designed with kids who have Dev. Coordination disorder in mind.

Suzanne would pay for better training for our Resource and Support teachers and children having greater access for Dx…and if we can’t use that money to support our children with learning needs, then commit a healthy portion of the profit margin that will be created from having International Students come into our Province/Ministry back into these departments to better equip students and staff.

Jennifer would pay for proper SEA support so her child could return to public school.

Nicole would hire a few more EAs for the school so that there would always be one available for the times when a child is in distress and just needs a few minutes of walking outside, or a drive around the block, to settle back down instead of having parents called to take them home.

Charlene would fund EA support, training for EA’s, fund Resource Teacher hours and ongoing training, fund assistive technologies (and in-services on how to use them) for non-verbal children.

Alice would pay for sensory rooms.

Wyatt would like to see that money put towards more arts programs in elementary schools.

Nicole would fund a workshop for school staff so that they could have a better understanding of the behaviours exhibited by children with autism and mental health designations. This way everyone would be on the same page, reacting in predictable ways, which would keep our kids calmer.

MaryJane would pay for EA support and training for her son so he could attend school full time with his peers and for someone to revamp designations to work with any child’s specific need rather than force them into a box or get no help.

Jaclyn would fund training specific to SEAs and their learners.

Charlene would fund therapy: OT, PT, SLP, so they actually have enough time with each student to be effective.

Amanda would use that money so her 6 year-old could go to school for more than just a few hours a day.

Jackie would hire support workers so all the children could attend field trips.

Jolene would love for the funding to go towards SLP services in the school system so that her daughter in would be able to receive more than a whole 15 minutes a week of speech therapy!

Tara would use that money to make sure that her son with Autism Spectrum Disorder had properly trained EAs working with him at school so that he can reach his full potential.

Shannon would fund professional development to develop teacher philosophies and strategies around inclusion.

Jason would use that money to have properly skilled resource teachers working with his son with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Christine would use that money towards more SLP services to help her kindergartener say his first word.

Corey would ensure equitable and accessible education for ALL students, which includes lunch programs in all schools K-12 with a nutritious snack and lunch every day. Not a program that parents pay for once or twice a week that is run by parents to fund raise to pay for play grounds, technology, and libraries.

Elia would fund more SEA’s in the classroom and at lunch hours, as well as provide a school counsellor for each and every school…not just 2 days a week like at her son’s school.

Dione would use the money to provide child specific training to the EA and classroom teacher for that child that is only allowed in school 1/2 day because they have no program or strategies to manage behaviour and ensure that student is learning.

Susan would buy assistive software for all the kids who need it.

Natalie would like more support for recess, field trips, special events – no child should be left behind,

Tracy would spend the money on enough EA time (with EAs trained specifically in autism intervention) to allow her kids to go on field trips, participate in band, be on the basketball team, or participate in any other ‘extracurricular’ activities that are such an integral part of the school experience.

James would like to see all the support and specialist teachers returned to full time levels so that teachers and students alike get appropriate support.

Shieren would put money towards more hours for SLP ,OT and PT in the public school system.

Heather would hire more EAs in schools, more training and a mental health clinician in the schools plus a fully OT equipped room for sensory needs, some laptops/I pads for specialized learning and enough OT, and speech therapists for every child who needs it, not just the most severe.

Nicole would restore funding for full time librarians and custodial staff in every school, and a school nurse so that children with serious conditions are assured of having proper assistance to hand should they need it.

Kelly would fund proper support so that her autistic son doesn’t get lost from the playground.. AGAIN.. due to lack of EA time.

Taylor would spend the money on exercise bike desks so kids with the wiggles could still work.

Emily would fund more training for SEAs, resource teachers and integration support teachers in dealing with challenging behaviours in children with Autism and related conditions.

Sooz would spend it on food. Simple… cooked on the premises lunch and breakfast program and teaching caregivers how to cook because it is a profound need and so many student are extremely hungry.

Tanja would fund more 1 on 1 EA support for her son so he’s not out of the classroom and her family doesn’t end up in significant debt, paying for private tutoring, Occupational therapy, ABA therapy, physiotherapy, counselling & a much needed psych-ed, as her son has been 2 years on a waitlist.

Tina would like that money to go towards reducing the wait list for psych-ed testing as $150k would be at least 100 more kids getting the testing they need! Her son is in grade 5 and the school district has never tested him before and so now she has to paying for a private assessment.

Jodi would get all special needs the support they need and deserve by hiring more ea’s.

Faith would spend the money on early primary screening to red flag the children who need help right away and not wait until grade 3 for assessments.

Brooks would use funds to develop and implement a training program for all school staff (SEA’s, school secretaries, youth care workers, noon hour supervisors, teachers, and administrators) to understand and implement support strategies for children with special needs.

Jennifer would spend it on providing more assessments for the kids that need it, as well as supports to follow up with.

Samantha would hire a specialists to work with her friend who uses a feeding tube, instead of a regular EA with five minutes of ‘orientation ‘.

Delaney would pay for adequate supervision to keep kids with special needs safe through the WHOLE school day.

Max would hire an EA (trained in autism intervention) who speaks French to support him in his late Immersion program.

Rob would keep the money to here, in BC, for our children and with a focus on supporting their needs.

Ben would hire lunchtime monitors, trained in crisis intervention, to limit incidents on the playground that ultimately prevent special needs students from having freedom at play time.

Cyndi would hire trained work experience EAs to help children with ASD learn skills so they can become employable after high school.

Janna would hire more EA’s at her high school, so that the students who had one to one support in elementary school, are also supported in secondary school and not left to “fend for themselves”.

Scott would hire support staff so parents are never told “your child can’t attend full time because we don’t have an educational assistant.

Cathy would use the funds to bring in the Deaf blind consultant more than once a year as well having a vision and hearing resource person available more than twice a year.

Karen would spend it on establishing provincial-wide set standards for adequate Education Assistant training to deal with the wide variety of different needs that exist in our diverse classrooms and similar additional training for specialist teachers so they actually have the skills and knowledge necessary to manage the cases of children with complex learning needs.

Hailey would pay to upgrade playgrounds so all children can play on the equipment.

Heidi would use the funds to staff a full time counsellor at every school.

Colette would use the funds helping the designated kids who are told there is no money to help them!!

Andrea would use that money to put into the education system to train people in human rights.

Mark would use the funding to provide all schools with a school nurse that would ultimately be responsible for the safety & well-being of children with complex medical/health needs (ie: feeding tubes, administering insulin injections, blood glucose testing, etc) and oversee/supervise & train school support staff in the management & care these children require at school.

Heidi would redirected those funds to remove the wait list for school specialists, i.e. Psychologists, SLPs, OTs, etc., and towards a fully staffed Resource Centre for Parents and Special Needs Children in EVERY DISTRICT.

Melanie would arrange for more SEA time so her daughter and other special needs classmate aren’t left to play video type games all day instead of learning with their class, which is happens on a daily basis.

Shon would like a little of that money to be spent on a class set of iPads so our son without speech can have peers that are able to communicate the same way he does – and they could help him learn that his voice matters even if it comes through an AAC device.

Shelly would bring the private schools that specialize in special needs (LD, gifted) under public umbrella so parents don’t have to pay so much when they are forced out…

Lana would like to see money put towards training workshops for teachers, school administration and all aides on how to manage and deal with challenging behaviours so that children like her son can attend school more than a couple hours a day without being sent home because no one knows how to manage them other than their regular aide.

Heidi HG would put the District Gifted coordinator back to full time (cut to half time last year) and add another position for 2e learners. One District resource can support hundreds of teachers, who in turn support thousands of students! Our gifted learners are grossly misunderstood, under supported and some of our most vulnerable kids! And there would probably still be some money left to provide some parent education too!

George would use the funds to shorten those waitlists for psycho-educational testing because no child should have to wait to get help.

Ray would use the money to hire a facilitator to lead a discussion between the Ministry of Education and parents who have children with special needs to ensure the Minister hears directly from those in the know what is happening to special education in British Columbia.

Kim would hire more education assistants for kids with special needs.

Dave would get ea support in place for at least 6 kids who have adhd and other Co morbid conditions.

Titus would get one extra supervisor for lunch at as many elementary schools as possible who would be trained in dealing with kids with special needs so that at lunch time they can go out and feel more included in activities with an adult who can support them help them learn social situations.

Courtney would hire more support staff.

Tanya would pay for awards for those children who struggle to learn but work so hard and are always left out on awards day.

Clair would purchase classroom resources like visual timers, handwriting and fine motor tools, ABA supplies and reinforcers, social skills teaching materials for students with autism spectrum disorder.

Adam would spend the money on healthy food programs. Food is fuel kids need nutritious food to burn to learn.

Sarah would pay for early reading intervention for students at risk for Dyslexia.

Gina would hire Orton Gillingham tutors to work with Dyslexic students an hour a day.

Tara would spend the money on books, books and more books for school libraries,

Alison would fund more learning assistance programs.

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