Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Climax!?

Before I start on latest developments in the Gabriel Saga....Tangent!  I was on a website today about whether its possible to make a living blogging.  I know...what a coincidence!  I start blogging, then somehow find myself on a website talking about how to make a living from blogging.  Truth is stranger than fiction, I guess.

Anyways, the absolute best part of this guy's advice: "you should be able to write something.  You can hire someone to do it for you, but that can get expensive."

Like: "hmmmm....I really want to start a blog...only problem is that I can't write for shit....hmmmm....maybe I can hire someone to do the writing for me....and I will do the other 1%". 

Fucking brilliant.  (As everyone reading this is saying to themselves...JJ...consider hiring a writer....)

Ok!  Back to our little Education saga!  Well, here's what we did:

We decided to move Gabriel to an ISP class. But, in our defence, we felt like it was just too late.  I spoke with the woman who was helping us advocate, and, although she was nice about it, I could tell she was disappointed.  But we just felt we needed to do what was best for our son right now. 

For me, the proverbial:

Janelle and I took a tour of what will be Gabe's new school.  That night, I was sitting with Gabriel on the couch watching the tube.  And I told him about how we checked out this school and how there was a class there that kids with autism and Asperger's attended and how there were teachers there who were specifically trained to help these kids learn.  And he thought about what I said for a few minutes, then, unbidden, he turned his wide blue eyes to mine and he said "Ok, dad, I think I'd like to go to that school....but I'll have to say goodbye to my friends first."  In that moment, he was so brave, and the anguish evoked by his current school situation was so heart just broke in two. And then a whole wack of dust blew into my eyes.  So fuck it. 

The TSB was nice enough to send us another email, to which we kindly and, doubtless, ineffectually, responded.  For, you know, completeness, here they are!

Hello Mr. Johns,

Thank you for your follow-up communication.  I have reviewed the many comments that you have provided thus far and appreciate your candid statements.  I also appreciated speaking with both you and Janelle over the phone late last week.  You have made frequent statements as to the school not accommodating Gabriel.  In fact, the school has provided a significant number of accommodations from the beginning of the year which included staffing realignment to support him throughout the day along with a host of programming accommodations to support his learning.  We are committed to continue to provide ongoing accommodations and treat the IEP as a living, breathing document that goes beyond the development stage.  It is really the ongoing conversations with parents and a multi-disciplinary team that helps to inform ongoing adjustments to the IEP.

During our telephone conversation, you had indicated to me that you felt the school was ‘not dealing with Gabriel’s Asperger’s – they are just dealing with his behaviour’.  When I asked you about the specific accommodations you felt were not in place as it related to Gabriel’s programming, you did not respond with specifics.  You referred back to the behaviour.  The issue here is not one of program accommodation alone.  The school has taken into account several aspects of Gabriel’s learning profile in all of its decisions.  The challenge facing John and his team is really one of balancing the ongoing accommodations and learning supports for Gabriel with the ongoing safety of other students in the classroom.  There have been multiple interactions where students were either hurt or at risk of being hurt.  The school has not been able to pinpoint any specific antecedents to any of the incidents so as to better be able to program for Gabriel.  The incidents have occurred with no rhyme or reason that is consistent which makes the go forward planning more difficult.  John and his team have definitely looked at Gabriel’s learning profile when considering how to address these incidents and have taken into account several mitigating circumstances when deciding how to address the issue while continuing to support him.

The next steps that John is recommending over today and tomorrow are not intended to be restrictive – they are intended to be proactive and supportive so that after your visit this afternoon to the smaller class program recommended by the IPRC, there would be a follow up discussion tomorrow afternoon.  This would allow a conversation about what the plan would look like moving forward.  There has been no move towards any formal orders within the Education Act.  The school is just trying to look at how to best work with you through discussing all possible options available.

The recommendation by the committee is the best thinking of a multi-disciplinary team.  They have considered all of the information that has been provided and are making a recommendation as to how they see the programming supports best meeting Gabriel’s needs.  I know that John will continue to work with you.  Respectfully,

Ian Allison
Superintendent of Education
School Services – SW3 Schools


Mr. Allison,

Thank you for this note.

We are pleased to hear that the school will not be pursuing a formal order against Gabriel. As well, as John may have informed you, we have decided to accept a placement of Gabriel into an ISP program at Kensington Public School. This decision was not made lightly. However, Gabriel himself requested that he be allowed to attend, that he would rather attend school there than at Humewood, notwithstanding that his best friends are students there. As well, the extreme anxiety Gabriel has been experiencing since the beginning of the school year with respect to his school experience has recently begun affecting his behaviour outside of the school setting and we are becoming increasingly desperate to address it.

As well, we appreciate your "going easy on us" regarding our call with you last week. We were more curt than we should have been, and we apologize. However, please understand that we were becoming desperate to stop the steady deconstruction and withdrawal of our seven year old boy. As well, we admit that our recommendation for action was perhaps vague. But we ask for your forbearance in that we are still new to Asperger's Syndrome and we were perhaps over-relying on the expertise of the TDSB to suggest appropriate and effective accommodations for Gabriel.

As Gabriel will be withdrawing from Humewood shortly, perhaps there is no point going on further. However, both Janelle would like to offer these further comments in the hopes that a future student with an ASD, or even possibly Gabriel himself, should he decide one day that he would like to return, may find integration a real possibility.

1. You reference the accommodations made by Humewood. While we, without doubt, appreciate the allocation of Humewood School's admittedly limited resources to Gabrielthat commenced after his first week of school, accommodation is only truly accommodation to the extent it is both appropriate and effective. We are not convinced that the accommodations provided to Gabriel in this time were appropriate and there is no doubt they were not effective in defusing Gabriel's skyrocketing anxiety. Janelle and I wonder if perhaps things could have wound up differently if the ASD team had been involved in designing Gabriel's grade 2 curriculum from June 2011 to before the first day of school. We would Urge Humewood Administration in the future to get the ASD team involved as soon as there is a psychological assessment made and not wait until a future IPRC meeting.

2. You state: "The school has not been able to pinpoint any specific antecedents to any of the incidents so as to better be able to program for Gabriel.  The incidents have occurred with no rhyme or reason that is consistent which makes the go forward planning more difficult." This, frankly, strikes us an extremely troubling statement. It places all of the responsibility for the behaviour on Gabriel and brooks no possibility that the school staff was and is not sufficiently educated in both ASD itself and setting up a curriculum that sufficiently addresses the extreme anxiety that inevitably accompanies it. Janelle and I feel we are blue in the face from trying to get the point across that Gabriel is not a completely unpredictable being who alternates between acting out and asserting that he does not want to learn, and instead is exhibiting these behaviours as the result of the extreme anxiety he is feeling in the particular situation he is presented with. Were this anxiety removed, so too would be the behaviour issues.

We understand that the ASD team plans a presentation to staff this Wednesday and that the presentation is typically part of a three part presentation given. We STRONGLY urge Humewood School administration to proceed with these staff presentations notwithstanding Gabriel's absence, as it is certain that children with ASD will be enrolled at Humewood in the future.

3. As the result of incidences at the school involving Gabriel, a parent group formed, intent on raising their concerns. Out of pure coincidence, this group got involved with a member of the Toronto Family Network who helped educate them with respect to ASD. No attempt was made by Humewood's administrators to try and educate parents in Gabriel's class regarding ASD either through a letter home or an information session. Without such action, children can become pariahs in a community (particularly where there are ongoing struggles to find the appropriate accommodation) and it is perhaps only the result of serendipitous fortune that Gabriel did not suffer such a fate. We would have happily consented to and participated in such a thing were it offered. As well, we are of the view that privacy concerns should not be a factor, as even if parents of a future ASD child enrolled at Humewood do not consent, non-child specific information could be provided.

We thank you very much for your consideration.

Jeffrey C. Johns


  1. I came across this reference to autistic kids and iPads which you may know about, but, if not, may find helpful.


  3. Thanks Roy. Saw a report on the people's broadcaster the other night. Has to be of more utility than the piece of rope stapled to a stick that they gave him at his present school.

    Ok, that's not true.

  4. Very interesting letters JJ. I commend you on posting them as I am going through my own thing with our School Division also. I can understand how frustrating the administrators can be and how things get twisted to support their own objectives and not necessarily what is in the best interest of the student. I, like you, have had to take matters in to my own hands, on my own dime, to enable what is best for my son eventhough it shouldn't have to be my responsilbility. Now I keep moving forward in the process so that a "change in policy" can be made so that others can benefit in the future from our ordeal and not have to deal with the same level of stresses and "red tape" as we are dealing with.


  5. N'ique

    I hope it helps. Being on the vanguard with this kinda stuff just sucks. But like you say, if it will make it better for the next little tyke who goes thru...I dunno. Parenting is complicated!