Monday, 24 October 2011

Fun with the TDSB!

Seriously,how great are you, Internet?  You really have a plethora of images!  I could not have thought this one up!

Anyhoo, as I said in my last post, this year has not begun well.  Massive anxiety, lots of meltdowns.  Believe it or not, a group formed among the parents in Gabriel's class determined to make the principal aware of "their concerns".  Through completely random serendipity, they came across a woman who specializes in child advocacy before they could take up their pitchforks and torches and head on over. She helped them draft a letter that was actually sympathetic towards our son, and encouraged that he be accommodated appropriately.  Then we spoke with her. She was incredibly nice and incredibly supportive.  And she suggested we write a letter too.  So. We. Did.  Ok, it was an email.  But we wrote it.  And we sent it.  So, I guess I thought I would post it.  And the response.  And the response's response.  Enjoy!  Or don't!  Up to you!

The Throwdown!

Karen Forbes
Senior Superintendent
School Services Special Education and Section Programs

Trustee Shelley Laskin

Trustee Mari Rutka

Chris Bolton
Chair & Trustee
Ward 10

Ian Allison
Superintendent SW3 Region

John Duwyn
Humewood Public School

To Each Of You:
We are the parents of Gabriel Johns, a second grade student at Humewood Public School, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in May of 2011. We are writing this letter to address a number of grave concerns we have in respect of the education of our child. In addition, we are aware that a letter has been sent to you from a group of concerned parents of a number of the children in Gabriel’s class. We would take this opportunity to state that we support this group and understand and appreciate their having the same concerns as we do with respect to our child.
1. Immediately after starting at Humewood, Gabriel thrived. Gabriel’s first Grade teacher at Humewood, Rob Dawson, fostered an incredible relationship with Gabriel and made numerous accommodations for him. These accommodations resulted in Gabriel having an extremely positive and successful year.
2. In May of 2010, a psychological assessment of Gabriel was performed by Monica Bandel, M.A., a psycho-educational consultant of the TDSB. This psychological assessment concluded that Gabriel had Asperger’s Syndrome.
3. In early June of 2011, we attended a team support meeting where this diagnosis was discussed. At that meeting, it was indicated that, based on Ms. Bandel’s report, a meeting with the Identification, Placement and Review Committee ("IPRC") would need to take place at which Gabriel could be identified as an "exceptional pupil" with Asperger’s Syndrome. We were informed that any additional supports from the school board could not be accessed until the IPRC meeting. When we asked if it would be possible to have an IPRC meeting that month, we were informed that it was not possible, that it would also not be possible over July-August break and that the earliest it could be was September.
4. Before the first day of school, we were not contacted with respect to formulating a transition plan for Gabriel. On September 6, 2011, we arrived at school for Gabriel’s first day. When we arrived, we learned that, notwithstanding Gabriel Asperger’s diagnoses, no accommodations had been planned for Gabriel for the school year. There was no transition plan in place to assist Gabriel in adjusting to a new grade, a new teacher, and a newly renovated and altered school. Gabriel attended his first day and week with no additional supports in place.
5. Gabriel’s first week did not go well. Janelle was called each day that week to attend to the school to take over the care of Gabriel. This was as a direct result of Gabriel being subjected to the normal curriculum with no additional supports and our son ending up in a state of extreme anxiety and frustration.
6. Gabriel continued to struggle in the following weeks. After approximately 3 weeks, it was decided to assign an educational assistant to Gabriel in the morning and a separate one in the afternoon. We are unaware if either of these educational assistants has received ABA training from the school board or any help from Surrey Place. Concurrently, Gabriel’s teacher fell ill and Gabriel had a succession of approximately six supply teachers as his home room teacher over the next several weeks.
7. We have had numerous meetings with John Duwyn and others in the first month and a half of the school year. At numerous meetings, Mr. Duwyn had advocated that Gabriel attend school ½ days. The reason for this has been stated that perhaps Gabriel is tired by the afternoon, and more likely to act out. We disagreed and disagree.

8. There has been no referral to SHSS for an occupational therapy assessment to address sensory issues for Gabriel this school year.
9. A referral to the Autism team of the Toronto District School Board was made in September. They did not attend the school until October 3, 2011. Presently, as of the third week of October, twice weekly afternoon assistance is now being provided to Gabriel.
10. On October 4, 2011, we attended the IPRC meeting for Gabriel. Present at the meeting were the Chair Jan Davies, Cathy Macina-Ciardullo, Tally Bodenstein, a psychologist (Ms. Bodenstein has never met us or our son), Pauline Roy (Gabriel’s teacher, although she had up to that point taught Gabriel for a total of four days), John Duwyn and Lisa Steele. At the meeting, Gabriel was identified as an exceptional student. The IPRC Committee recommended that Gabriel be placed in an intensive support program in another school. Notwithstanding the requirements of subsection 18(2) of the Regulations to the Education Act of Ontario, there appears to be nothing in the IPRC report that indicates the reasons for not being able to accommodate Gabriel in a regular classroom.
At this meeting, we iterated our thought that what we thought would be best for Gabriel was for him to stay at Humewood and for him to be assigned one person who was trained in supporting children with Asperger’s to provide consistent and constant assistance, along with a computer. We were informed by the Chari of the meeting, Jan Davies, that the likelihood of somebody being available to be assigned to Gabriel as a one on one support was virtually impossible, because of lack or resources, but that they could ask.

We were given a copy of the IPRC Report and asked to sign it, although we were informed we did not have to agree with the recommendation.
11. On Monday, October 17, 2011 we were invited to a meeting at Humewood. Present were John Duwyn, Pauline Roy, Lisa Steeles, Cathy Macina-Ciardullo, Elaine Choptiany of the TDSB Autism Team and William Bird of Safe and Caring Schools. At this meeting we were unceremoniously informed that Gabriel would, from the beginning of the next week, only be permitted to attend school half days. It was stated that this decision was being made because of a concern for the safety of staff and other children. Neither my wife nor I agreed or agree with this decision. At the meeting, for the first time, an executed copy of Gabriel’s safety plan was provided to us; a plan that was created without input from either my wife or myself. As well, we are very concerned that it was executed before Gabriel had an Individual Education Plan ("IEP") in place.
12. The day after the October 17 meeting, Gabriel’s supply teacher for that day provided Janelle with a draft copy of Gabriel’s IEP. We have not had any input into this plan and do not feel it is adequate or accurate.
The Accommodation of Gabriel’s Needs
We have stated from the beginning that we would like Gabriel to remain at Humewood, with his friends. We are of the view that Gabriel’s greatest chance for success lies in him remaining in a regular classroom, provided with the appropriate supports.
We are heartened that this is a view shared by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, as stated in their Guidelines on accessible education, dated September 29, 2004. In fact, as we understand it, the Commission requires that at the primary level, "before considering placing a student in a self contained or specialized classroom, education providers must first consider inclusion in the regular classroom", and that "in most cases, appropriate accommodation will be accommodation in the regular classroom with supports." 
Ontario Human Rights Commission, Guidelines on accessible education, September 29, 2004 as amended, p. 22.
We also look to the memorandum dated June 9, 1994 from the Ontario Ministry of Education to directors of education, superintendents of special education, and principals, that "the integration of exceptional pupils should be the normal practice in Ontario..."
From the beginning of this school year, the TDSB has been slow to act to make any accommodation at all for our child. In addition, apart from accommodation, our Asperger’s child, who has difficulty with transitions, has been provided no transitional assistance for his new year and been subjected to a revolving door of educators. We have found ourselves extremely frustrated at this situation.

In our view, there is a fundamental disconnect between what the administration at Humewood considers appropriate accommodation and what we consider to be appropriate accommodation. In our view, one not need look farther than the fact that Gabriel has an incident an average of every second school day to see that he is not being sufficiently accommodated. We are of the view that, with the assistance of one (not numerous) trained educator working with Gabriel within a class setting, he can both:
a. Be educated in a manner where he will not become frustrated and act out,
b. Be motivated to learn.
For evidence of this, we look no further than the fact that, with the right accommodations, Gabriel had an extremely successful year in grade one.
With these supports in place (plus any additional supports that may be suggested by the TDSB Autism Team), we are of the view that Gabriel could be extremely successful at Humewood.
On this basis, we are not at this time prepared to sign the transfer forms that Mr. Duwyn has encouraged us to sign that would enrol Gabriel in a special education class located in an alternate school. We request, again, a full time, fully Asperger’s trained educator to work with Gabriel on a one on one basis at Humewood. We also request, again, that a computer be made available to our son. In our view, such accommodation is his right under the Ontario Human Rights Code. If providing these needed accommodations would cause undue hardship, we will require a written statement that this is the case.
Mandating Half Day Attendance
Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, disabled persons have a right to equal access to education.

At the beginning of the school year, no accommodation had been made for Gabriel. Accommodations have been made incrementally, many of them, without the recommendations of specially trained staff. We strongly believe that Gabriel’s acting out stems directly from a failure to accommodate his needs adequately. Denying him access to an education for half of each day results in Gabriel effectively being blamed for not being sufficiently accommodated. This violates Gabriel’s rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

As we repeatedly urged at the October 17, 2011 meeting, we ask again that Mr. Duwyn and Mr. William Bird reconsider this order. However, if they are unwilling to do so, we ask that Mr. Duwyn provide his decision to only allow Gabriel to attend school half days in writing to us, along with under what provision of the Education Act of Ontario that is being relied on.
As a courtesy, please be informed that upon receipt of Mr. Duwyn’s order we will be filing an appeal with the appropriate body as we feel such denial of our son’s right to an education is patently unfair.
The recommendation of the IPRC is to transfer Gabriel to an Intensive Support Program. We do not agree with the IPRC decision as we do not think that there has been enough consideration to accommodating Gabriel within the classroom.

We request that a meeting be held with each of you present as soon as possible to discuss these issues. Please contact Jeffrey at the contact information below.

The Response to Our Throwdown!


As per our phone conversation this morning, we have transitioned Gabriel to our HSP (Home School Program) for the mornings. During our last meeting we discussed the possibility of placing Gabriel in this class as this environment has fewer students and would perhaps assist with his academic needs and provide a quieter work environment. He will have access to a computer either in this class, the library or in our resource room near Ms Campbell. In the afternoon, Gabriel may also work in the HSP class, with Ms Campbell in the resource room or in his regular classroom…depending upon the daily schedule and Gabriel’s readiness to be in a larger class environment.

In the HSP class, he will also have access to Ms Steele who has been working with Gabriel in the morning since the beginning of the school year. She is an educational assistant in the HSP class who will work with your son and other students in this class. Gabriel will also have access to a SNA in the morning and the afternoon. Starting Monday a new SNA will be involved in the morning and Gabriel will continue to work with his present SNA Ms Curran in the afternoon.

The ASD team has been in to work with my staff and Gabriel. They have set up a visual portable schedule that Gabriel carries with him. At the present time Gabriel states that it is at home. It is a green pencil case with Velcro on it. Please ensure he brings it with him to school Monday morning so that we can continue using it with him.

The ASD team today developed a bin system for Gabriel…it is an organizational/ work system that has 4 activities and 4 bins of choice. Gabriel assisted in the creation of the bins and the choices. The purpose of the bins is to provide a structure for doing work and then a free activity; it will also provide opportunities for independence for Gabriel.

The ASD will be involved in the class everyday for a half day starting Monday.

We will continue to look for opportunities for Gabriel to be involved and integrated into his regular grade 2 classroom and program throughout the day as much as possible.

Also as mentioned, I would like to meet with you, the teacher and myself Monday morning at 8:30 a.m. to assist with the relationship between Gabriel and his teacher and to help Gabriel understand the expectations of his day at school. Please confirm that the time is still convenient for you.
Lastly, at a recent meeting we recommended a reduced day for Gabriel to help with his success at school. I am concerned about him returning to his regular classroom given all of the incidents and outbursts that have happened thus far. These incidents have resulted in some students being hurt or being put at risk of being hurt. As you know the safety of all students is very important. Given that you are visiting the program Monday afternoon, I would suggest that we have a conversation Tuesday to discuss your visit. We can then discuss a support plan to transition him to full days in the proposed current setting. We have been since the beginning of the school year; and will continue to accommodate for the needs of your son to provide a safe and positive learning environment for all students. I would be happy to discuss this in more detail when we meet.
I know that you are still considering the offer of placement at Kensington PS. and are visiting the program Monday afternoon with Gabriel. The IPRC committee recommended an intensive program at this time. Please let us know your decision at your convenience so we can continue to program accordingly.



John Duwyn
Humewood Community School

The Response to Their Response!


Thanks for this.

1. With respect to the HSP class, we are certainly hopeful that Gabriel's attendance in this class will reduce the anxiety that has built up in Gabriel since he started school this fall. We also are pleased that Gabriel will have access to a computer. However, this access in no way, in our view, satisfies Gabriel's need for a computer specifically assigned to and designed for him.

2. As you and I discussed yesterday morning, we are also cautiously optimistic about another SNA being assigned to Gabriel, (although we are concerned that it is yet another temporary educator that Gabriel has to deal with, and, indeed, one with no commitment of length of placement). However, we view this as a temporary measure and this temporary SNA in no way lessens our desire to have a SNA trained and experienced in supporting children with Asperger's Syndrome assigned to Gabriel full time. In our view, this is the accommodation that is needed to reduce Gabriel's anxiety and allow him to be successful at Humewood.
3. We will ensure that Gabriel brings his portable schedule on Monday. Both Janelle and I were up relatively late drafting the email below and I guess were a bit dozy this morning! But thank you for this statement. It is a good reminder for Janelle and I to consider whether we are doing enough to assist Gabriel. As you know, we have enrolled Gabriel in self regulation courses at the Geneva Centre, have consulted with Hincks-Dellcrest Centre, consulted with our family Doctor and been referred to the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health, and placed Gabriel on the waiting list at the Integra Foundation. We have also signed Gabriel up for a central auditory processing testing in early November. But we will again review our options and consider whether there are additional things we should be doing. Any suggestions you may have would be appreciated.

4. We are pleased that the ASD team will be providing support five half days a week from the two half days provided up until now. Janelle and I look forward to sitting with Elaine and discussing the strategies being put in place to reduce Gabriel's anxiety around transitioning and learning and what measures are being used to bolster Gabriel's ability to self regulate.

5. While our goal is to have Gabriel ultimately be full time in his regular classroom, we would stress that this can only be done with the right supports in place and transitional measures implemented. In our view, Gabriel's self-esteem and self confidence have been eroded and his anxiety toward school elevated by the events of the past month and a half. This can be seen in, as you have informed me, Gabriel's recent compete withdrawal from participation in gym and music class, classes that he successfully and enthusiastically participated in last year. To place Gabriel back into his classroom without these will surely result in failure and further deleterious effect on Gabriel.

6. Janelle and I would be happy to meet with you on Monday morning. Please ensure that you let us know if you need to cancel or reschedule.
7. We appreciate that your view is that you have fully accommodated Gabriel's needs. We disagree and have consistently disagreed vehemently with this view. Accommodation in our eyes equals success. Gabriel is not currently succeeding. Thus we think there is still more to be done to get Gabriel back to where he was last year.

8. I apologize but I am still uncertain from your email whether it is still your intention to deny Gabriel access to school for half of each day. If it is your intention to follow through with this, please, again provide this in writing with the support of which portion of the Education Act of Ontario you are relying. We have taken into account Mr. Byrd's advice, given at the meeting of October 17, 2011, that we do not want to receive such an order formally, but we have decided that if Gabriel is to be denied access to his school, such an order should in fact be formal. We understand that the safety of all of the students of Humewood is paramount, but we are certain outbursts from Gabriel will cease to be a concern once his needs are accommodated, just as such incidences were of little or no concern last year.

See you on Monday.

Tomorrow.....!  The decision! (Just like a reality show!) Do we stay or do we go now!?


  1. Good Luck! I really hope they get it! xo

  2. Hi There..Where can I find the continuation of thiss very important dilema? Good Luck

    1. Hi Marilou. Thanks for your good wishes!

      The entries in my blog about Gabriel are all tagged "Asperger's". The next one was called "The Climax" and is here:

      Hint, it had a pretty happy turnout, as far as his mom and dad were concerned!

  3. How wonderful that you make all this correspondence available for anyone to read! People need to know how pathetic the system is to address special needs. My son was at Humewood also and we had a lot of problems obtaining the classroom supports he needed. There was little to no follow through on supports agreed upon in team meetings, not even an informal IEP to manage accountability. It's so unfair to the kids.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Thanks Karen. We thought it was important. I guess the hope is that the more this is out there, the better educated parents will be and hopefully schools, including Humewood, will be more proactive, so that sufficient accommodation is provided for kids coming after Gabriel.

      Parents need to know going in that, although it seems like you and the school are working together to achieve the same ends, that is not necessarily the case.

      That said, Gabe's new school has been incredible, from the principal to each of Gabe's teachers.

      If you get a chance, please let me know how your child is doing. Hopefully its going well!

  4. I don't even know if you check this blog for comments anymore, but I had to write because my experience with my son in TDSB the past two years has been eerily similar, from the frustration over the lack of accommodations, to the witch hunt (though mine did not end nearly so smoothly, to just this week being offered a spot at Kensington. I just want to say thank you for your honesty -- it made me feel less isolated -- and I hope things turned out well for you and yours.

  5. Jacqui! I do read them! I am very happy that these entries helped you a little. It's really really hard when the TDSB seems to be doing everything they can to tell you everything is your fault. I can say that our experience with Kensington has been fabulous. Completely different. The teachers and principal care so much about the students, and you can actually feel like part of a team with them.

    If you have any questions, let me know!!

    Gabriel is switching schools next year, so we are going to have to go through whole process again!